The United Arab Emirates will launch its first lunar rover in November, the mission manager said on Monday.
Hamad Al Marzooqi told The National, a state-linked newspaper, that the Rashid rover, named for Dubai's ruling family, would be launched from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida sometime between Nov 9 and Nov 15. The exact date will be announced next month, he said.
The rover is to be launched aboard a Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket and deposited on the moon by a Japanese ispace lander sometime in March.
We've finished with the testing of the rover and we are happy with the results, Al Marzooqi was quoted as saying. The rover has been integrated with the lander and it is ready for launch.
The lunar mission is part of the UAE's broader strategy to become a major player in the field of space exploration.
If the moon mission succeeds, the UAE and Japan would join the ranks of only the US, Russia and China as nations that have put a spacecraft on the lunar surface.
Already, an Emirati satellite is orbiting Mars to study the red planet's atmosphere. The UAE partnered with Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to launch that probe, which swung into Mars' orbit in February 2021.
The Rashid rover is expected to study the lunar surface, mobility on the moon's surface and how different surfaces interact with lunar particles.
The 10-kilogram (22-pound) rover will carry two high-resolution cameras, a microscopic camera, a thermal imagery camera, a probe and other devices.
The UAE has plans to develop the Middle East's most advanced commercial satellite to produce high-resolution satellite imagery. It has also set the ambitious goal of building a human colony on Mars by 2117.