Space: UAE plan mission to asteroid belt

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) are planning a space probe flight to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The mission will start in 2028, which is to build on the experience the UAE has gained in the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), said the Emirates space agency.

The probe is expected to approach the planet Venus in mid-2028 and orbit it in mid-2029. The first close flyby of an object in the asteroid belt is planned for 2030. A total of seven asteroids in the main belt are to be examined before the probe will land on an asteroid 560 million kilometers from Earth in 2033.

In total, the space probe is expected to cover a distance of 3.6 billion kilometers. By circling Venus and then the earth, it should get the momentum for the necessary speed to be able to get to the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. The probe should approach the sun to a distance of 109 million kilometers, so it must be well protected from heat. At the maximum distance of 448 million kilometers from the sun, on the other hand, only little solar energy is available, the space agency describes the challenges.

The exact scientific goals and instruments that will be used during the mission should be known in mid-2022. The UAE is developing the mission together with the US Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado, Boulder, which was already an important partner at the EMM. It has not yet been decided which company will bring the space probe into space.

With the “Al Amal”, the first Arab space probe reached Mars in February of this year and entered orbit there. The Federation of Emirates is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and the Mars probe is considered an anniversary gift.

The UAE would be the fourth nation to land on an asteroid. NASA’s Osiris-Rex probe is currently on its way back to Earth with a sample of the asteroid Bennu in its luggage. In December 2020, the Japanese probe Hayabusa2 brought samples from the asteroid Ryugu to Earth, while China is heading for the asteroid (469219) Kamoʻoalewa.


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