UAE sets sights on the moon

Dubai (AFP) –


The United Arab Emirates announced Tuesday it will launch an unmanned rover to the moon by 2024 as it seeks to expand its space sector.

The UAE -- a collection of seven emirates better known for its skyscrapers, palm-shaped islands and opulent mega attractions -- is a newcomer to the world of space exploration but quickly making its mark.

In September 2019, the oil-rich country sent the first Emirati into space as part of a three-member crew that blasted off on a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan for an eight-day mission.

Then in July, it launched an unmanned spacecraft from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center bearing the "Hope" probe destined for Mars, in the Arab world's first interplanetary mission.

The Emiratis now have their sights on the moon, according to the UAE's vice president, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

"We have launched a new Emirati project to explore the moon," he said on Twitter on Tuesday. "It will be an Emirati-made lunar rover that will land on the surface of the moon by 2024."

Sheikh Mohammed also said that the rover -- named "Rashid" after his father who is credited with modernising Dubai -- will cover "areas not yet reached in previous exploration missions".

The project marks another first for the UAE, making it the first trip to the moon by an Arab country.

Sheikh Mohammed said the lunar mission was part of the country's space strategy to build new knowledge-based and scientific capabilities.

The Dubai Media Office said that the 10-kilogramme (22 pound) rover will be an integral part of efforts to build the first settlement on Mars in 2117 -- one of the UAE's most ambitious plans.