Follow the departure to the Moon of the first Arab rover thanks to SpaceX

The United Arab Emirates launches a mission to the Moon. The goal? Place a rover, Rashid, on the surface. A first for the country. The launch of the mission is provided by SpaceX and can be followed live.

The launch in a nutshell

  • What? A lunar mission from the United Arab Emirates, with the sending of a rover to the surface;
  • When? December 1, 2022, at 9:37 a.m. (Paris time);
  • Where? From Kennedy Space Center, Florida;
  • What will we see? The flight of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Rashid rover on board.

What is the mission?

The mission is almost less grandiose than that conducted two years earlier by the United Arab Emirates, with the Hope mission. At the time, it was a question of inserting the Al-Amal (“Hope”, hence the name of the program) probe into the orbit of Mars. This time, the objective is different: Abu Dhabi hopes to succeed in depositing a rover on the surface of the Moon.

The rover, called Rashid, is to operate for ten Earth days on the Moon. Controlled by the Mohammed bin Rashid space center, which oversees the entire space program of the Emirates, it will do like many other rovers before it: prove that it can arrive safely on the Moon, evolve on its surface, validate certain technical choices and collect scientific data.

The planning of the mission took place in partnership with the National Center for Space Studies, the equivalent in France of NASA, and the Center for Petrographic and Geochemical Research. It was a question of selecting the landing site – it will be the Atlas crater, located on the visible face of the satellite – and of providing special cameras.

The Rashid rover is being integrated into the lander. // Source: MBR Space Center

These are “the first French instruments sent to the Moon for 50 years”, notes the Cnes. These cameras “will provide very high-resolution images of the lunar ground and environment in full HD (2000×2000 pixels)”. There will be three cameras on Rashid. They will be used to study soil, geology, dust, and its movement on the surface.

“The major innovation of these cameras is based on the use of CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) image sensors. This technology is identical to that used to design the cameras in smartphones today,” adds the space agency. They have been designed since 2015 by the French company 3DPlus.

The presence of common technologies on board certain space missions is not that exceptional. Including trips as far away as Mars, there are components that also exist in products for the general public. For example, the Perseverance rover and its companion, the Ingenuity helicopter, are equipped with it.

One question remains: if it is SpaceX that ensures Rashid’s departure to space, by sending him towards the Moon, and if it is Cnes and 3DPlus that provide the three observation cameras, which take care of depositing the rover on the surface of the star? It will be Japan. The Land of the Rising Sun indeed provides a lander called Hakuto-R.

Rashid’s arrival on the Moon is scheduled for March 2023.

Launch date

The departure of the lunar mission from the Emirates is set for December 1, 2022. Lacking its own launch base, Abu Dhabi must call on foreign service providers. It was Japan in 2020 for the Hope mission. It will be the United States in 2022 for the lunar mission. It is SpaceX that will ensure the departure of the rover, from a Falcon 9 rocket.

How to follow the launch live

The live can be followed here.

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