DUBAI: The UAE has unveiled plans to send a spaceship to explore the main asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter in a new space mission.
Dubbed MBR Explorer, the spaceship would be expected to launch within a three-week period in March 2028.
Unveiling details on Monday, the UAE said the spaceship would travel 5 billion km on a voyage to help understand the foundation of the solar system and seek clues to life’s origins found in the asteroid belt.
It will pass Mars to explore seven asteroids in the main asteroid belt before finally deploying a landing craft on one of the asteroids in 2034.
The 13-year mission “will cover 10 times the distance” travelled by the ‘Hope Probe,’ which the UAE launched in 2021 to provide new insight into Mars, tweeted Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.
“The Emirates Mission to the asteroid belt is a massive scientific project that will result in the establishment of private Emirati companies specialized in space science and technology,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid.
بحمدالله أطلقنا في قصر الوطن التفاصيل العلمية لأحد أهم مشاريعنا في مجال الفضاء "مشروع الإمارات لاستكشاف حزام الكويكبات " . المشروع يستمر 13 عاماً.. 6 سنوات للتطوير و7 سنوات رحلة استكشاف.. ستقطع خلالها المركبة الاماراتية MBR Explorer ٥ مليار كيلومتر متجاوزة كوكب المريخ لاستشكاف… pic.twitter.com/C0peR7JAMe
— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) May 29, 2023
The mission comprises a six-year development phase of the spacecraft followed by a seven-year flight to the main asteroid belt beyond Mars, and a series of close flybys to conduct unique observations of seven main belt asteroids, said state news agency (WAM). It will culminate in the deployment of a landing craft, fully developed by UAE private start-up companies, onto a seventh, rare “red” asteroid that scientists say may hold insight into the building blocks of life on Earth.
The multiple-asteroid tour would “investigate the potential of water-rich asteroids as a usable resource and evaluate the presence of volatile and organic compounds in the asteroid belt – the building blocks of life on Earth,” read the WAM statement.
It would also allow for possible future resource extraction from the asteroids.
The UAE became the first Arab country and the second country ever to successfully enter Mars’ orbit on its first try when its Hope probe reached the red planet in February 2021.
The unmanned spacecraft aims to provide the first complete picture of the Martian atmosphere and its layers, helping answer key questions about the Red Planet's climate and composition.