UAE to the Moon: Meet the lunar mission team

The Rashid Rover is set to blast off at 11.38am, UAE time, tomorrow

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File photo

Nandini Sircar

Published: Tue 29 Nov 2022, 3:47 PM

Last updated: Sat 10 Dec 2022, 8:30 PM

The Rashid Rover is set to make history as it blasts off tomorrow, marking the start of a space odyssey that will make the UAE the fourth country to land on the Moon.

As the rover prepares its epic take-off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, we meet the team behind the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre’s (MBRSC) Emirates Lunar Mission (ELM).

The team has been instrumental in developing the lander from scratch — and in various tweets posted by the MBRSC, the engineers can be seen talking about the challenges that they faced and some of the key moments in the rover's development.

Salem AlMarri, director-general of the MBRSC, said the mission was a "very challenging project" for the centre — "because for the first time in our history of close to 20 years of space exploration, we will be landing on the surface of another celestial body".

"Landing on the surface of the Moon poses different challenges than our previous experience of orbiting around the Earth or Mars or orbiting around Earth with humans,” he explained

AlMarri added: “Then operating on the surface of the Moon also poses other significant challenges. For us it’s very strategic that we launch such a project because for the first time in the history of this region we will land on another celestial body and explore an area of the Moon that has never been explored before by humans. We expect to get some significant scientific results that will help in future human exploration of the Moon. Through this project we’ve been able to build unique capabilities in robotics and landing on the surface of the Moon and also being able to build a rover for the first time that will land on the Moon.”

Meet the Rashid Rover team here:

Dr Sara AlMaeeni, rover communication system and science lead

In the video tweeted by MBRSC Dr Sara AlMaeeni, rover communication system and science lead, Emirates Lunar Mission, has been part of the the team since the announcement of the mission.

“One of the main challenges that we faced was the lack of new missions to the surface of the Moon to consider as a reference. We overcame this challenge by conducting several studies and experiments that allowed us to understand the surface of the Moon and to verify the technologies abroad the Rashid Rover," she said.

For her, the key moment would be “the first contact between the Rashid Rover and the ground station".

Reem AlMehisni, rover thermal engineering lead

“My role is designing, analysing and conducting experiments on the thermal management system to ensure that the instruments are working safely and efficiently facing the temperature fluctuations on the surface of the Moon. Before the mission I was part of the team that developed KhalifaSat and later on and later on I was selected to join the Emirates Lunar Mission when preparations started,” says AlMehisni.

Defining the biggest challenge for her, she said: “One of the challenges that I faced during the mission is understanding the complex and harsh thermal environment on the Lunar surface. I overcame it by conducting research and experiments that simulated all the circumstances of this environment.”

Shedding light on the critical moment AlMehisni adds, “The moment that I am awaiting is receiving the first data about the thermal condition of the rover through which we will confirm its efficiency in facing the thermal environment on the surface of the Moon.”

Ahmad Salem, systems engineering lead

Salem says her role has been to connect all the systems, so they perform properly.

Talking about his biggest challenge Salem adds, “Our biggest challenge was time. The team performed perfectly, and accomplished feats never been achieved. In my opinion the main event is to reach the Moon. With the first step of the wheel completed on Moon’s surface, we can successfully say: We have arrived at the Moon.”

Describing the Mission in one word, he adds: “Challenge”

Abdulla AlShehhi, rover mechanical engineering lead

“The first model was created for the mobility tests and then we proceeded to work on the qualification model which includes all of the scientific and electronic instruments as well as the rover’s main payloads," he said.

“The model was then subjected to tests that simulated the launch environment such as vibration and thermal tests. After confirming the rover’s good condition, we developed the flight model that will be launched into space and repeated the launch environment tests on it to verify that the rover was manufactured perfectly and that the electronic instruments are in good order,” says AlShehhi.

Dr Hamad AlMarzooqi, project manager, ELM

Highlighting how the MBRSC engineers had to undergo many trials and tests during the development of the rover, Dr Hamad AlMarzooqi, Project Manager, Emirates Lunar Mission, MBRSC, in a tweet by the DMO, said:


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