After the success of its Hope Mars mission, the UAE space agency has announced plans for another mission, to explore an asteroid belt situated between Mars and Jupiter.
The Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt (EMA) will be launched on a spacecraft named MBR Explorer after Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and prime minister of the UAE.
Slated for launch in 2028, the EMA will study the building blocks of the solar system and also “investigate the potential of water-rich asteroids as a usable resource,” according to a statement from the UAE Space Agency.
“We will never cease to look ahead; we will never cease our efforts to develop a brighter future for our young generations,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoumbin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice president and prime minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai, said in the statement.
The MBR Explorer will visit its first asteroid in 2030, and then pass by six asteroids — the asteroids (10254) Westerwald, (623) Chimaera, (13294) Rockox; (88055) 2000 VA28, (23871) 1998 RC76 and (59980) 1999 SG6 — all which represent “different classes of asteroid with varied compositional types,” mission officials said.
In 2034, the mission aims to touch down upon Justitia, also known as the red asteroid. Justitia and Chimaera are around 50 kilometres in diameter, with the remaining asteroids less than 10 km across each.
The MBR Explorer will carry four science instruments to probe the geology, composition and structure of the asteroids: a high-resolution camera, a thermal infrared camera, a mid-wavelength spectrometer and an infrared spectrometer.
The UAE Space Agency currently has a probe orbiting Mars — the Emirates Mars Mission, also called Hope. Launched in July 2020, it arrived at the Red Planet seven months later and successfully entered orbit around Mars in 2021. It continues to collect data on the Martian atmosphere beyond its initial short mission.