Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, vice-president and ruler of Dubai, has announced that the United Arab Emirates has a new space mission, which will consist of a mission to explore a belt of asteroids, in which it will attempt to land on them, as well as a trip to Venus to fly over the planet. The project will be carried out in 2028.
Although the first phases of the plan have already begun, the mission would fly past seven asteroids and attempt to land on the last of them. This will be done in the main belt of these space bodies, which lies between Mars and Jupiter. The operation would, in turn, become one of the UAE's best projects, involving a journey of 3.6 billion kilometres. This would exceed the distance travelled by the Hope probe to reach Mars in February 2021, so the mission could be a success.
Oman al-Sharaf, head of the previous UAE space mission, said that the mission is a new and very favourable phase for the Gulf state. He also said the project would prove how the UAE space team can transfer the knowledge gained from the Mars project to the private sector, helping to boost the national economy.
The project itself would bring benefits that will be present in small and medium-sized enterprises. "It is a new and critical phase in the UAE's space programme because one of the biggest challenges is how we can ensure that the knowledge we have acquired through Mars and previous missions is properly delivered to the private sector," Al Sharaf told the Mars Society Convention.
For their part, Emirati private sector companies would be the main participants in the mission, and they would be given priority in contracts for mission development. Al Sharaf said, "This is about serving our economy and addressing our environmental challenges".
The nation's government confirms that the establishment of a private space sector would contribute to the national economy, as for decades, space missions were managed by the country's leadership, but efforts are now being made to affiliate with private companies that can enhance the capabilities of the sector and space agencies.
The space sector could also help the UAE address the challenges the government foresees for the future. Al-Sharaf points out that the national economy relies heavily on the technology being made in the country and that this would be a good help for the upcoming challenges.
"The way we address our national challenges when it comes to food and water security are imported technologies. We need to be able to build customised technologies or solutions that serve and are based on our environment, so this will be the focus of the next phase of the UAE's space programme," said Al-Sharaf.
The Emirati newspaper, The National, was able to interview Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Technology and chairperson of the UAE Space Agency, in which she says that the space sector will have a direct impact on the national economy for the next five years. She also states that the goal is to make the UAE a global centre for the development of spacecraft systems. "Today we are talking about a space sector that has an indirect impact on the economy. In five years, we want to see a space sector that has an indirect impact on the economy, society and also a direct impact on the economy".
Emirates is still trying to carve out a niche in the space sector. The latest mission to Mars has been a success, involving both Emirati engineers and three US universities. According to the latest news, the new mission partners the Gulf country with the University of Colorado's Space and Atmospheric Physics Laboratory again, but it is not yet known what is planned.