UAE to land on the Moon tonight: Tracing Rashid Rover’s 135-day journey

The explorer was designed and built by a team of Emirati engineers, experts and researchers


Nandini Sircar

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Top Stories

File photo
File photo

Published: Tue 25 Apr 2023, 4:55 PM

Last updated: Tue 25 Apr 2023, 8:30 PM

The UAE’s Rashid Rover designed and built in the UAE by a 100 per cent Emirati team of engineers, experts, and researchers is aiming to land on the Moon’s surface tonight.

It is a small explorer with just four wheels and a weight of 10kg. If successful, the UAE will become the first Arab country and among the first countries in the world to land on the lunar surface after the United States, Soviet Union, and China.

It will study the Moon’s surroundings for one lunar day, which is equivalent to 14.75 days on Earth.

The Emirates Lunar Mission is part of the new 2021-2031 strategy launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), which includes the development and launch of the first Emirati lunar rover named “Rashid”, after the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, builder of modern Dubai.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre’s Emirates Lunar Mission (ELM) team took the UAE-made Rashid Rover for a spin in the remote desert areas in Dubai in March 2022.

It was done to check if all systems were working well, as part of its preparations for the mission’s launch to the surface of the moon. The checks included monitoring the rover's mobility and communication systems. The four-wheeled rover can apparently climb over obstacles up to 10 centimetres tall and descend a 20-degree slope, at speeds of 10cm per second.

Why did Rashid Rover take over 135 days to reach the Moon?

It is common knowledge now that the ELM is taking a low energy route to the moon. The rover is entirely solar-powered and equipped with four cameras, including a microscopic and thermal one.

“Assisted by the Sun's gravity, it will reach a distance of 963,000 miles (1.54 million km) from Earth — more than three times the distance between Earth and the Moon — before being pulled back towards the Earth-Moon system,” Nasa said in a statement before the mission was launched.

This effectively means the spacecraft utilized a unique approach to space travel, taking advantage of the Sun's gravitational pull to propel itself deeper into space rather than using thrusters to burn more propellant. It then utilized the gravitational pull of the Earth to slingshot itself towards the Moon, which is a departure from traditional direct transfers that typically take three to six days.

This technique, known as a gravity, assist or gravity slingshot, allows spacecraft to efficiently alter their trajectories and speeds by utilizing the gravitational pull of celestial bodies in the solar system. This method has been successfully used in numerous space missions, including the Voyager, New Horizons, and Cassini-Huygens missions.

Meanwhile, the rover that is being delivered by the Hakuto-R lander, engineered by Japanese lunar exploration company ispace. It has completed Success 8 of the Mission 1 Milestones.

Here are the different completion stages up until now.

Stage 8: Completion of all orbit control manoeuvers in lunar orbit – completed all planned lunar orbit control manoeuvers before the landing sequence. Today, the lander is ready to start the landing sequence.

Stage 7: Reaching the lunar gravitational field/lunar orbit - On March 21, 2023, the lander was successfully inserted into lunar orbit, orbiting the Moon in an elliptical orbit with an altitude of about 100 km at the perigee (periapsis) and about 6,000 km at the apogee (apoapsis), followed by two orbit control manoeuvers. The lander then reached a 100 km circular orbit around the Moon. It will now adjust its speed and altitude to make a “soft landing”.

Stage 6: Completion of all deep space orbital control manoeuvers before LOI – Completed all planned deep space orbital control manoeuvers by utilizing gravity assist effects and successfully target the first lunar insertion manoeuver.

Stage 5: Completion of stable deep-space flight operations for one month –Prove that the lander is capable of steady deep-space flight by completing a nominal cruise and orbital control manoeuvers over a one-month period.

Stage 4: Completion of first orbital control manoeuver – Complete the first orbital control manoeuver, setting the lander on a course towards the Moon and verifying the operation of the main propulsion system as well as related guidance, control, and navigation systems.

Stage 3: Establishment of a steady operation state: Establish a communication link between the lander and the mission control centre, confirming a stable attitude as well as a stable generation of electrical power in the orbit. The completion of this step verifies the integrity of lander core systems and customer payloads.

Stage 2: Completion of Launch and Deployment: Complete successful separation of the lunar lander from the launch vehicle. Prove that the lander’s structure is capable of withstanding the harsh conditions during the launch, validating the design and gathering information towards future developments and missions.

Stage 1: Completion of launch preparations – Complete all development processes of the Series 1 Lunar Lander before flight operations. Contact and prepare the launch vehicle and complete the integration of the lunar lander into the launch vehicle.


More news from Space