In its efforts to diversify its oil-dependent economy, the UAE turned to space exploration. In 2020 the Emirates became the first Arab nation to launch a satellite into space. Dubbed ‘Hope’ the mission successfully reached the Mars orbit in March of this year.
Now, the UAE is planning another mission to space, this time, however, their focus is on Venus. Announcing early this month, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said that the new mission would orbit Venus and also explore asteroids within our solar system.
The mission’s main focus will be the exploration of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. This region, as elaborated by the UAE Space Agency, is the largest source of meteorites that strike the earth.
The journey to this area is expected to take around five years and will be roughly seven times the distance by the first mission, the Hope probe to Mars. If completed successfully, however, the mission will grant UAE entry into the elite club of countries/regions with successful missions to Mars. They include nations such as Japan, the United States and the European Union.
Completing the mission will however be a little more technical than UAE’s maiden trip into space. Their team of young and mostly female scientists will have to tackle challenges like creating a craft with much higher speeds so that it can venture farther into the solar system. According to the agency, the spacecraft will have to slingshot around Venus and Earth so that it can then hurtle towards the asteroid belt billions of kilometres away.
The mission is planned for 2028 with the state saying that it will span five years with the spacecraft estimated to take about seven years to build.
Noting the increased complexity of the Mars mission, UAE’s Minister of State for Advanced Technology Sarah Al-Amiri said that the Mars Mission would be “five times more complex” than the satellites the agency had developed for their previous mission.
“This mission is in the order of five times more complex than EMM,”
She however reiterated the importance of the Mars mission saying that it would help enlighten the UAE on the formation of the solar system while also linking the mission to a jumpstart to a knowledge-based economy.
“This can’t be done by going steady-state, this requires leaps in imagination, in faith and the pursuit of goals that go beyond prudent or methodical,”
To aid the nation in its ambitions the UAE Space Agency called upon the private sector to help contribute to the project. The agency has set up policies and structures to help establish space businesses within the Emirati. The agency will give these companies priority access to contracts while also training young Emiratis on technical engineering skills for space.
There is already, for instance, a partnership between the Emirates University and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), a research organization based at the University of Colorado Boulder to boost this program.
Noting the level of ambition in this plan Abu Dhabi crown prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said in a tweet:
“The launch of a new project to explore Venus and the asteroid belt sets an ambitious new goal for our country’s burgeoning space program. The UAE is determined to make a meaningful contribution to space exploration, scientific research and our understanding of the solar system.”
Dubai’s Sheikh Mohamed also echoed this sentiment linking the mission to the Arab’s world-historic contributions to science.:
“A third of the stars in the sky had Arab names because the Arabs were pioneers of astronomy. Our mission is to resume our Arab civilization. And if we don’t act today, when?”