After successfully launching its Hope spacecraft to Mars in 2020, the oil-rich United Arab Emirates unveiled plans on Monday to send a spacecraft to explore the main asteroid belt of the solar system. The Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt project aims to build a spacecraft over the next few years, launch it in 2028, and conduct research on a variety of asteroids. According to Mohsen Al Awadhi, program director of the Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt, “this mission is a follow up and a follow-on on the Mars mission, where it was the first mission to Mars from the region.” “With this mission, we’re producing the same thing. the first mission to specifically explore these seven asteroids
If successful, the recently announced spacecraft will travel for seven years to six asteroids, reaching speeds of up to 33,000 kilometers (20,500 miles) per hour. The deployment of a landing craft onto a seventh, extremely rare “red” asteroid, which researchers believe may contain information about the components of life on Earth, will mark the conclusion of the mission. Some asteroids have been found to contain organic materials, including water, which are essential components of life. These materials may have come from collisions with other bodies rich in organic material or from the synthesis of intricate organic molecules in space. It may be possible to learn more about the origin of Earth’s water and gain important insights into the origin of life on our planet by looking into the origins of these compounds and the potential presence of water on red asteroids.
The project is a major accomplishment for the developing UAE Space Agency, founded in 2014, as it builds on its achievement in launching the Amal, or “Hope,” probe to Mars. Over ten times more distance would be covered on the new journey than on the Mars mission. The explorer is known as MBR after Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, and the vice president and prime minister of the UAE, both of whom hold hereditarily held positions. It will first move toward Venus, where the gravitational pull of the planet will cause it to slingshot back past the Earth and then Mars.
After traveling 5 billion kilometers, the spacecraft will eventually arrive at the asteroid belt, flying as close to the celestial rocks as 150 kilometers (93 miles) (around 3 billion miles). The final thrust to the seventh and final asteroid, Justitia, is anticipated to be made by the spacecraft in October 2034. A lander will then be released over a year later. It’s possible that Justitia, one of only two known red asteroids, has a surface covered in organic compounds. One of the two reddest objects in the asteroid belt, according to Hoor AlMaazmi, a space science researcher at the UAE space agency, is so red for unknown reasons.
There are hypotheses that claim it came from the Kuiper Belt, where there are a lot more red objects. We can therefore study that since it has the potential to be water-rich as well.” Private UAE start-up companies will fully develop a landing craft called the MBR Explorer that will be sent out to study the surface of Justitia. It might pave the way for potential asteroidal resource extraction in the future to support prolonged human space missions, and possibly even the bold plan of the UAE to establish a colony on Mars by 2117. Al Awadhi stated, “We will engage with them through that. We have identified various key areas that we want startups in the private sector to be a part of. “We recognize that the knowledge we possess in the UAE comes from you.