Tech could someday let people even in dry climates
get clean water straight from the atmosphere›››
The UAE’s Rashid Rover was presumed destroyed after the Japanese company that operated the lander it was stowed on lost contact with the spacecraft at landing. But the project manager of the all-Emirati team that created the rover said getting the technology into space was an accomplishment all by itself.
Dr. Hamad Al Marzooqi, of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center and a Khalifa University alum, said before the landing attempt that the UAE team behind the Rashid Rover knew the landing was dangerous, but believed it was worth the risk.
He said this mission reflects the adventurous spirit with which the UAE approaches everything. “This mission is proof that we don’t just make plans, we make things happen. This in itself is a success.
“All of these experiences and knowledge that we gained is a success by itself,” he said. “We gained confidence.”
The iSpace team said it would continue to investigate the loss of the HAKUTO-R’s telemetry.
The Arab world’s first lunar mission began three years ago. The UAE hoped to be the fourth country to safely land on the lunar surface.
Soft lunar landings are difficult because there is no atmosphere and parachutes can’t slow the spacecraft. Only the United States, China and the former Soviet Union have achieved them.
The project aimed to study lunar surface materials such as dust and soil, also called regolith, and monitor radioactivity and electrical signals that would offer important data for future missions. The rover was equipped with two high-resolution optical cameras to navigate the surface and allow geological study of the landing site.
Among challenges the rover team faced: its size.
“We have a small team working on the project, and the team did everything from scratch, from concept designs until now,” Marzooqi said. “(Usually) you have a team working on the custom design, then a team working on the engineering side, then another team working on the testing part and another team is working on the operations. But we went through the whole process from the beginning, from concept designs.”
“The knowledge gained through this mission is tremendous,” Marzooqi said.
“We have experts now doing communications with the systems from the moon. We have experts doing mobility systems,” and others in the Middle East are now interested in accessing that expertise, he said.
The knowledge gained through this mission is tremendous.
– Dr. Hamad Al Marzooqi, mission project manager
Mohamed Ramy El-Maarry, the director of the Space and Planetary Science Center at Khalifa University, contributed to the work on the rover.
“Having a member of KU, a national university, in the science team is a point of great pride for us,” El-Maarry told KUST Review.
The rover team put considerable work into the project, designing systems and instruments specifically for the task.
The Rashid Rover, named for the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al Maktoum, former ruler of Dubai, was scheduled for a 14-day exploration.
Khalifa University planned to contribute to data analysis and collection and science operations.
The UAE is already working on a second rover. “We are not waiting for this one to succeed or to fail,” Marzooqi said before the landing attempt. The next rover will be more advanced, he promised.
The UAE space program has other projects coming up as well.
“We have a plan to launch a remote sensing satellite that will be the most advanced remote sensing satellite sent by MBRC. This will be our fourth thermal sensing satellite,” Marzooqi said.
“Also during this year we have a small program called the Payload Hosting Initiative. The idea is to have a … platform of small satellites to allow developing nations to (send payloads into space).”
On a personal note, prior to the rover landing, Al Marzooqi told KUST Review, “For me, the moon has always been special. Especially within our culture. As Muslims, we look to the moon to mark the start of and end of Ramadan and we follow the lunar calendar.
“But now, since we started working on the moon and we have our rover orbiting the moon, the moon is completely different for me. Every night I look up at the moon, though we cannot see the rover orbiting, knowing that there is something up there touched by our hand is an experience I cannot explain in words. This is something very personal for me and I was very fortunate to be a part of this team, working on this mission.”