UAE unveils groundbreaking mission to galaxy’s main asteroid belt
Dubbed the Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt, the UAE’s recently unveiled trailblazing plans to send a spaceship to explore the galaxy’s main asteroid belt is a significant milestone for the flourishing UAE Space Agency, just established in 2014.
It’s the latest space project by the Mideast nation after it successfully launched the Hope spacecraft to Mars in 2020. The spacecraft reached the planet in 2021, making the UAE the first Arab country and the second country ever to successfully enter Mars’ orbit on its first attempt.
The newly announced mission aims to develop a spacecraft and launch it in 2028 to study six different asteroids over a seven-year journey. The project will see the deployment of a landing craft onto the seventh asteroid suspected of holding insight into the building blocks on Earth.
Organic compounds like water have been found on some asteroids. These are crucial constituents of life and exploring their origins could help researchers learn more about the origin of Earth’s water, thereby shedding light on the genesis of life on our planet.
The craft would cover a distance over ten times greater than the Mars mission. The explorer is named MBR after Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
The spaceship will possibly make its final thrust to the seventh, rare “red” asteroid, called Justitia, in 2034. Justitia is believed to be one of only two known red asteroids and according to Hoor AlMaazmi at the space agency, “scientists don’t really understand why it’s so red.”
The asteroid is also thought to potentially have a surface laden with organic compounds. The new mission will see the MBR Explorer deploying a landing craft to study the surface of Justitia which is entirely developed by private start-up companies of the UAE.
It may pave the way for potential future extraction of resources from asteroids to eventually make extended human missions in space a greater reality – and maybe even support the UAE’s ambitious plans to build a colony on the red planet by 2117.