DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The United Arab Emirates announced on Tuesday that it was sending a probe to land on an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter to collect data on the origins of the universe, the latest project in the oil-rich federation’s ambitious space program.
A successful landing would result in the UAE joining an elite club from the European Union, Japan and the United States who have accomplished the feat. The probe would stay on the asteroid and relay information about the composition of the asteroid to Earth as long as its batteries remain charged.
The project targets a launch in 2028 with a landing in 2033, a five-year journey during which the spacecraft will travel approximately 3.6 billion kilometers (2.2 billion miles). The spacecraft would have to spin around Venus and then around the Earth to achieve enough speed to reach an asteroid about 560 million kilometers away.
What data the Emirates will collect is still under discussion, but the mission will be even more challenging than the previous ones as the spacecraft will travel both near and far from the sun, Sarah al-Amiri said Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency and Minister of State for Advanced Technology.
“Since this is based on the Emirates Mars mission, it is more difficult than exponentially more difficult by several factors,” al-Amiri told The Associated Press. “If we were to do this mission from the start without having the background we currently have from the Emirates Mars mission, it will be very difficult to achieve.”
About 1.1 million known asteroids circulate in the solar system, the remnants of its formation, according to NASA. Most of them orbit the Sun in the area between Mars and Jupiter, which is targeted by the Emirates’ planned mission. Their composition encompasses the building blocks of the world that we know today.
The UAE space agency said it will be working with the University of Colorado’s Atmospheric and Space Physics Laboratory on the project. She declined to immediately state the cost of the effort or describe what special features of the asteroid she wanted to study. Al-Amiri said there is debate about what equipment the spaceship will carry, which in turn affects the features it can observe.
The project comes after the successful implementation of the Emirates its Amal or “Hope” probe in orbit around Mars in February. The Amal car size cost $ 200 million to build and launch. This does not include operating costs on Mars. The asteroid mission would likely be more expensive given its challenges.
The Emirates plan to send an unmanned spacecraft to the moon in 2024. The country that is home to Abu Dhabi and Dubai has also set itself the ambitious goal of establishing a human colony on Mars by 2117 – but the more immediate goal is to build a private and government-supported space economy with its projects.
“It’s difficult. It’s a challenge,” said al-Amiri of the asteroid project. “We understand and fully understand this, but we understand the benefits of taking on such large, demanding programs and projects.”