Science

China and UAE to cooperate on lunar rover missions

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has found another partner to help realize their lunar exploration ambitions.

The UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) announced today (September 16) that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s National Space Agency (CNSA) to work together on future lunar projects.

The two agencies will “collaborate on future lunar missions involving the landing of the MBRSC rover aboard the CNSA lander,” MBRSC said on Twitter today. (will open in a new tab). The agreement marks “the first joint space project between the UAE and China,” the agency said in another tweet. (will open in a new tab).

Lunar Chronology: Human Exploration of the Moon

MBRSC is already working with two private sector partners on its Emirates lunar mission, which is due to send the small Rashid rover to the moon later this year. The robotic mission will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and the 10-kilogram Rashid will land aboard the Hakuto-R, a lander built by Tokyo-based ispace.

Using China for future work on the moon also makes a lot of sense, given the country’s impressive track record in lunar exploration. Over the past decade, China has launched three missions to the lunar surface, all of which have been successful.

In December 2013, Chang’e 3 landed a duo of lander and rover on the near side of the Moon, and Chang’e 4 landed a similar pair on the far side of the Moon in January 2019 — the first soft landing ever achieved on this little-studied part. Moon. Moon. Both missions are still on. And in late 2020, the Chang’e-5 mission brought lunar dirt and rocks back to Earth, making the first attempt to return lunar samples since the mid-1970s.

The Emirates lunar mission and the recently announced agreement with China are part of the UAE’s concerted drive to become a more active space player.

For example, in the fall of 2019, the country sent its first astronaut, Hazza Al-Mansouri, to the International Space Station. Another UAE astronaut, Sultan Al Neyadi, will travel to the orbital laboratory for six months next year as a member of the SpaceX Crew-6 mission for NASA.

In 2020, the UAE launched the Emirates Martian Mission, which sent an orbiter called Hope to the Red Planet. Nadezhda arrived safely in February 2021 and continues to study the Martian atmosphere and climate from its orbital perch today. The country is also currently developing a mission to the asteroid belt, which it plans to launch in the late 2020s.

Mike Wall is the author of Out There (will open in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrations by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or on facebook (will open in a new tab).

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