Tech could someday let people even in dry climates
get clean water straight from the atmosphere›››
The UAE’s deal to contribute the airlock for the planned lunar-orbiting Gateway station marks a significant milestone for the nation, a Khalifa University expert on the space sector says.
“The Gateway project is a fundamental part of the Artemis program and sets up the stage for further exploring the moon by developing and maintaining a manned space station in lunar orbit. The UAE’s recent partnership with NASA on this project highlights the country’s dedication to becoming a major player in the space sector in the coming years,” Mohamed Ramy El-Maarry, director of the Space and Planetary Science Center at Khalifa University, tells KUST Review.
Gateway, the space station expected to orbit the moon, will serve as a science lab and temporary lodging as astronauts explore the moon and test its materials. The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre will provide the airlock that will allow people and supplies to enter and exit the station. The deal also includes the potential for UAE astronauts to participate in future moon missions.
President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Jan. 7 announced the project on X, formerly Twitter: “I was pleased to attend with my brother Mohammed bin Rashid the launch of the UAE’s contributions to the historic lunar Gateway, which will serve as humanity’s first space station around the moon.
“Through our long-term investment in space exploration and scientific innovation, the UAE is determined to work alongside its international partners to enable collective progress for all.”
The project is part of NASA’s Artemis program aimed at returning astronauts to the moon by 2024 and the next frontier — an eventual human mission to Mars.
The UAE’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center is the latest member to join the international partnership of the lunar Gateway project consisting of the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Gateway is expected to serve as a layover for future missions deeper into the cosmos with a docking port, part of the airlock to be provided by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, for those deep-space missions.
The agreement reinforces scientific ties between the UAE and the United States.
“By combining our resources, scientific capacity and technical skill, the U.S. and UAE will further our collective vision for space and ensure it presents extraordinary opportunities for everyone here on Earth,” U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who also chairs the U.S. National Space Council, said in a press release.
The UAE’s space program has moved at a rapid pace since its launch in 2017. Accomplishments include sending its first two UAE astronauts to the ISS and its first spacewalk.
In conjunction with NASA, Hazza al Mansoori completed an eight-day stay on the ISS in 2019. Sultan al Neyadi in 2023 completed six months on the ISS, numerous scientific experiments and the first space walk by an Arab.
It has been over five decades since a human walked on the moon but the UAE space program has its sights set on being there for a lunar-exploration revival.
Along with the crew airlock and ongoing engineering services to the ISS, the agreement with NASA includes UAE access to the space station and the opportunity for its own astronauts to embark on lunar missions.
NASA has scheduled a Jan. 31 town hall meeting about the Gateway project with presentations and panels.