Middleeast

UAE hopes this tiny moon rover will be a stepping stone to Mars

Published 9:00 PM ET, Tue November 24, 2020
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The UAE has announced a moon mission for 2024. It will use an unusually small rover, with just four wheels and a weight of 10 kilograms (22 pounds). MBRSC
The rover, which will be built in Dubai, is much smaller than the last rover successfully deployed on the moon; China's Yutu-2 has six wheels and weighs 140 kilograms (310 pounds). AFP via Getty Images
By comparison, Curiosity, NASA's only currently active Mars rover, is bigger still -- weighing 899 kilograms (1,982 pounds), the size of a small SUV. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
The UAE is trying to join an elite club of only three countries -- the US, Russia and China -- to successfully land a spacecraft on the lunar surface. In 2019, India's Chandrayaan-2 mission crash-landed on the moon. Here you can see its rover on a ramp moving into the main vehicle, before launch. Indian Space research Organisation
China's Yutu-2 is the only active lunar rover, but NASA is looking to add one of its own. The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is a mobile robot that will roam around the moon's south pole looking for water ice. NASA
VIPER, roughly the size of a golf cart, is being tested at NASA's Simulated Lunar Operations Lab in Ohio. NASA
The planned UAE lunar mission is a sign of the country's growing space ambitions. In July 2020, a probe named Al Amal, or "Hope," launched for Mars. It is expected to reach its orbit in February 2021. MBRSC
Star trackers will help position the Hope probe into orbit. MBRSC
The Hope probe launched from Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan. The UAE has not yet announced partners for the rocket or launch pad for its 2024 unmanned lunar mission. Mistubishi Heavy Industries/Handout/AFP/Getty Images
In 2019, the UAE sent its first astronaut to the International Space Station. Hazzaa AlMansoori, pictured here during simulation training in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that took him to the ISS, spent eight days on board. Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC)
AlMansoori (L), shown here with mission backup astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi, also had to master the incredibly complex systems inside the Soyuz capsule. Both astronauts had to learn Russian in order to operate it. Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC)
The UAE's ambitious plans for space exploration also include experiments closer to home. Intended as a space to develop technology to colonize Mars, Mars Science City is planned for the desert outside Dubai. Bjarke Ingels Group
Architects Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) have designed a prototype of a city for humans to live on Mars, and then adapted the design for the Emirati desert. Bjarke Ingels Group
The design is made up of biodomes, each covered with a transparent polyethylene membrane. Dubai Media Office
The design features water-filled skylights, which on Mars would shield residents from radiation, while allowing light to enter the rooms. Bjarke Ingels Group
BIG's design for the Earth-bound Science City sets aside areas for research into living on Mars, including growing food on the red planet. Bjarke Ingels Group