SPACE — An asteroid that may harbor life-building material is about to receive a visit from a United Arab Emirates (UAE) spacecraft. Barring any obstacle, the sky stone’s mission will be accomplished in about a decade from now.
In October 2021, the UAE announced plans to launch an ambitious mission into the asteroid belt in 2028. The mission will visit seven different space rocks, and even land on one of them, the asteroid named (269) Justitia.
On Sunday, May 28, 2023, UAE informed Space.com some new information about the audacious asteroid mission, including its name, Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt (EMA). “We will never stop looking ahead, we will never stop trying to develop a brighter future for the youth of the UAE,” said Dubai ruler, vice president and prime minister of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
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The spacecraft on the EMA mission will be named the Sheikh and will be called the MBR (Mohammad bin Rashid) Explorer. The MBR Explorer will visit its first asteroid in 2030, and will follow an orbital path that will allow it to pick up the speeds of several planets along its way.
To note, spacecraft generally get gravitational assistance from planets, such as Venus or Mars. It could save fuel, and make side observations to test the instruments.
After passing six asteroids, the spacecraft will land on Justitia in 2034. The lander robot will launch from the MBR Explorer. Justitia probably has organic molecules on its surface. It is well known that organics are the building blocks of complex molecules that can form life under the right circumstances.
In general, scientists have long searched for water and organic matter throughout the solar system to better understand how life on Earth arose. “The search will likely be especially meaningful in Justitia, which formed near our planet and then migrated to its current position; the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter,” the scientists said.
UAE Space Agency officials said other mission manifests included flybys of the asteroids (10254) Westerwald, (623) Chimaera, (13294) Rockox; (88055) 2000 VA28, (23871) 1998 RC76 and (59980) 1999 SG6. All to represent different asteroid classes and varying compositional types. Justitia and Chimaera are about 50 kilometers in diameter and the other asteroids are less than 10 km each.
Four science instruments have been announced that will investigate the geology, composition and structure of asteroids. The four are high resolution cameras, thermal infrared cameras, medium wavelength spectrometers and infrared spectrometers.
The UAE Space Agency, the United Arab Emirates Space Agency (UAESA) was formed in 2014 and is one of the youngest space agencies in the world. In comparison, NASA was formed in 1958 from a group of countries in the US. The Mars orbiter Hope UAE launched in 2020 is the first Arab spacecraft to reach the Red Planet. Hope succeeds on the first try, and never disappoints. Hope even brought home a map of Mars in unprecedented detail.
The first UAE astronaut, Hazzaa al Mansoori, was launched on a short mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2019. Currently, another UAE astronaut is floating in orbit. He is Sultan Al Neyadi, who was launched into an orbiting laboratory in March 2023 on SpaceX’s Crew-6 mission. Source: Space.com
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