United Arab Emirates to launch bold asteroid mission in 2028

Artist's illustration of an asteroid belt that runs between Mars and Jupiter. This is the main destination for the United Arab Emirates' second interplanetary expedition.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), has its sights set on Mars.

Today, Oct. 5, the UAE announced plans for a 2028 mission to the asteroid belt. This will be the UAE’s second interplanetary mission. The Emirates Mars Mission launched an orbiter named Hope to the Red Planet in July 2020.

Officials from the UAE said that hope is still strong and that the next asteroid mission would build on its successes.

Photos: Asteroids in deep space

Sarah Al Amiri (chair of the UAE Space Agency) stated today in an email that "our goal is clear: To accelerate the development innovation and knowledge-based enterprise in the Emirates."

Al Amiri stated that this cannot be achieved by staying in a steady state. It requires leaps of imagination, faith, and pursuit of goals beyond the prudent or methodical. "When we set out on the Emirates Mars Mission, it was a six-year mission that was five times more complicated than the Earth-observation satellites that we were creating. This mission is five times more complicated than EMM.

The asteroid mission, which has yet to be named, will launch in 2028 if all goes according plan. It will fly by Venus and Earth at speeds of up to 2028 and 2029, respectively, before reaching the main asteroid belt between Mars, Jupiter, and 2030. It will examine seven asteroids in detail over the course its mission. The culmination of this mission will be a landing on a rock in space rock in 2033.

This is the most difficult step. This is the most ambitious step. Only a few missions have been completed by NASA's Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous, (NEAR), Shoemaker and OSIRIS-REx spacecrafts. Japan's Hayabusa1- and Hayabusa2 probes has made soft landings on asteroid.

The UAE will be a partner in the asteroid mission along with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder. This laboratory is also a key partner in the Hope Mars mission.

Officials from the UAE said that the science goals and instruments of the asteroid mission will be revealed in the middle of 2022.

The UAE's concerted push to deep space includes the delivery of a lunar rover named Rashid to the lunar surface in 2022. These efforts are expected to build technological skills and diversify the UAE's economy which is heavily dependent on oil exportation.

"Today we are investing in generations to come," Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE) said in the same statement. He is also ruler of Dubai, one the seven emirates that make up the country. "With every new space advancement, we create opportunities here for young people."