UAE-built Rashid Rover successfully blasts off to space; as it happened

The Moon mission marks the start of an epic 385,000km odyssey making this the fourth country to land on the lunar surface

By Nasreen Abdulla, Neeraj Murali, Kirstin Bernabe, Meher Dhanjal

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

Top Stories

Published: Sun 11 Dec 2022, 9:54 AM

Last updated: Tue 17 Jan 2023, 10:04 AM

The UAE makes history — with the successful launch of the Arab world's first lunar rover Rashid.

This marks the start of an epic 385,000km odyssey that will make the UAE the fourth country to land on the moon, the first in the Arab world.

The launch of the Rashid Rover — named after the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, former Ruler of Dubai — happened right on schedule at 11.38am (UAE time).

Check out KT's full coverage of the latest milestone in UAE's space history:

The Emirates Lunar Mission has come a long way since it was first announced in September 2020. Here's a quick guide on all you need to know.

9.25am: Journalists arrive at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai

At the MBRSC, the mood is one of excitement and nervousness. Many are grabbing coffee and getting into what is definitely going to be a long day. Here's Khaleej Times' team on the ground, ready to record history in the making:

Millions of people around the world have been following the UAE's space missions, with massive media coverage recorded every time. During the Hope Probe's launch in 2020, for example, over 1.5 billion people followed the story in newspapers and social media. We expect no less with this momentous occasion.

10.09am: Finally, the liftoff is happening

A few hours before the blastoff, the excitement peaks across the UAE — especially since the mission had faced a number of delays.

Earlier this month, the launch of the rover was delayed a fourth time due to technical delays. According to Japan-based ispace inc (ispace), the global lunar exploration company which will land the Emirati rover on the Moon, a, the postponement of the launch attempt of the lunar lander allowed SpaceX to perform additional pre-flight checks of the vehicle.

10.15am: Why space missions get delayed

Backup launch dates are considered for multiple reasons, say experts. It could be weather anomalies or any mechanical issues associated with the rocket.

This will ensure that launch agencies have enough time to analyse the space mission carefully.

Read more here:

10.20am: A look at all past Moon missions

If successful, the UAE will become the first Arab country and the fourth country in the world to land on the lunar surface after the United States, Soviet Union, and China.

Here's a look at all the space missions to the Moon since 1960:

10.24am: Where, what, when

The UAE's lunar rover is expected to blast off on board a Space X Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, US, at 11.38am UAE time.

10.30am: The epic mission in one minute

10.35am: All hands on deck

With the launch just over an hour away, all hands are on deck at the Mission Control Room at the MBRSC in Dubai. Here's look at what's happening right now behind the scenes:

10.45am: The ground station up close

Wondering how the control panels look like at the Moon mission station of the MBRSC? Here's a glimpse:

10.55am: Sheikh Hamdan posts cool video, what are your thoughts?

This morning, in anticipation of Rashid Rover's space flight, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, shared a cool video clip of the rover, set against the backdrop of the MBRSC headquarters.

11.05am: 'We have checked all the systems, we are very excited'

Abdulla Al Shehhi, the rover mechanical engineering lead was responsible for making sure every required system fit into the small 10kg rover.

Speaking to KT, he said: "I am scared, excited, a mix of feelings. This is the first mission to the moon. The launch today is one of the critical stages. We will get the first signal from the lander and after that we will get the first signal from the rover. That will depend on the lander orbital orientation. Currently we are very excited. The team here is ready to receive any signals. We have checked all the systems, we are very excited. It will be the first time the UAE lands on the moon so it is definitely a very big step for us."

11.08am: 30 minutes to go before liftoff

With half an hour to go before the launch, the excitement peaks across the UAE. It's all systems go for the Rashid Rover's flight which takes off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, US, at 11.38am UAE time.

11.15am: VIP expected to arrive at the MBRSC mission control room

All journalists have been ushered out of the mission control room as the team prepares to receive the VIP who will join for the launch. As of now, there is no indication who it will be.

11.18am: All systems go

With blastoff just a few minutes away, more people — spectactors, officials and journalists — arrive at the MBRSC. All systems are ready to go. The media are all in their respective areas with their eyes on the live.

The mood is electric. Everyone knows we are on the cusp of creating history. The MBSRC staff can no longer be seen around the media area. Along with excitement, anxiety is certainly in the air.

11.23am: Get to know the Rashid Rover — what will it do on the Moon?

KT graphics: Raja Choudhry
KT graphics: Raja Choudhry

11.25am: Excitement peaks at MBRSC headquarters

11.30am: 'A few minutes separate us from the launch of Rashid Rover'

In a tweet, the MBRSC confirms that the Arab world's first lunar rover is all set of liftoff at 11.38am.

11.35: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum arrives at MBRSC

11.37am: 10-second countdown begins

11.38am: We have liftoff!

The Space X rocket carrying the UAE's Rashid Rover blasts off to space — set to make the Emirates the fourth country to land on the Moon.

Here's a screengrab from an ispace footage:

11.47am: Falcon 9's first stage touches back down

The MBRSC confirms that the first and second stages of the Falcon 9 rocket have separated successfully.

Space X also posted a video saying that the Falcon 9's first stage has touched back down at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

11.54am: What happens after blast-off

Now that the Rashid Rover's space odyssey has officially begun, the spacecraft is expected to take a low-energy route to the Moon rather than a direct approach. Mission 1 will venture out to deep space and back again "on a sweeping trajectory designed to reduce the amount of fuel the spacecraft needs to carry", according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

This means that the rover will land about five months after the launch — in April 2023.

Read more here:

12.06pm: Mission team awaits first signal

Spectators and journalists are now standing by for an update for when the payload disengages from the thruster as it leaves the planet Earth's orbit. Once that happens, the lunar mission will be considered to have a high rate of success.

When the rocket exits the orbit, the MBRSC will be waiting for the first signal transmission. This is expected to happen around 12.45pm.

12.27pm: Lunar lander on its way to the Moon

12.40pm: The 'moment of truth' for Rashid Rover

According to the team at MBRSC, the landing of the Rashid rover on the moon will be the moment of truth as it is a very unique spacecraft that has several mobility systems. There are many moving parts like wheels, motors and gears. The mobility parts are very critical and the team will be anxious to see exactly how they work.

12.58pm: Sheikh Mohammed announces Rashid rover liftoff

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai has announced the launch of the Rashid Rover.

The Ruler also shared some pictures along with an aspirational message. He said:

"Explorer Rashid is part of an ambitious space programme for the UAE.. that started with Mars.. passing through the moon.. to Venus.. our goal is to transfer knowledge, develop our capabilities, and add a scientific footprint in human history."

1.14pm: Dubai Municipality shares images of team following up

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre team in Florida is following up on the launch of Rashid Rover.

1.34pm: First contact with lander established

Ground team at MBRSC successfully establishes first contact with Hakuto-R. There are scenes of jubilation at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre as teams clap and cheer. The HAKUTO-R Mission Control Center in Nihonbashi, Tokyo, confirmed that a stable communications link with the lander has been established.

First contact with the rover will be established after 3 days. The integrated spacecraft will take a low-energy route to the moon rather than a direct approach, which means the landing will take about five months after launch, in April 2023.

2.48pm: Sheikh Maktoum, Sheikh Hamdan congratulate team, leaders

Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, said in a tweet:

"We congratulate their Highnesses, the rulers of the Emirates and its people, for launching the Rashid Rover to the moon. We congratulate the Arabs for starting the first Arab mission to explore the surface of the moon, and we wish it success. The UAE is crossing a new historical station in its space achievements, with the help of its scientists at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, and proving that it is the homeland of the impossible."

Sheikh Hamdan has congratulated the MBRSC team and appreciated their efforts in making the liftoff a success. He, however, did not lose sight of the bigger picture and mentioned the rover's next milestone. He said: "Our next stop is 384,400km away."

"We look forward to Rashid leaving an Arab footprint on the surface of the Moon. We thank Team Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre for the launch of the Rashid Rover and for raising the UAE flag in space."

3.23pm: Digital signboards in Dubai celebrate UAE's mission to the Moon

Digital signboards on Dubai's major roads are celebrating the Moon mission as the Rashid Rover successfully lifted off today.

Boards on Al Khail were seen with the phrase "UAE to the Moon" signifying the aspirational and forward-looking mission undertaken by the country.


More news from UAE