The United Arab Emirates will launch a spacecraft to explore a large asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, officials said Tuesday, after a UAE probe reached the red planet early this year.
The five-year journey from 2028 will cover 3.6 billion kilometers (2.2 billion miles), with the unmanned craft, using the gravity of Earth and Venus, to reach the main asteroid belt beyond Mars, officials said.
“The mission will make its first close planetary approach to orbit around Venus in mid-2028, followed by a close orbit around Earth by mid-2029,” the UAE space agency said in a statement.
“It will make its first flight from a main object in the asteroid belt in 2030, after which it will observe a total of seven asteroids in the main belt before making a final landing on an asteroid 560 million kilometers from Earth in 2033.”
The UAE – made up of seven emirates, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai – is a newcomer to the world of space exploration.
In September 2019, the oil-rich country sent the first Emirates into space as part of a three-man crew that launched a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan.
Then, in February 2021, its “Hope” probe successfully entered Mars orbit on a journey to reveal the secrets of the weather on Mars, in the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission.
The UAE also has plans to send an unmanned rover to the moon by 2024.
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto leader of the UAE, said the launch of the new project sets an “ambitious” new goal for the country.
“The UAE is committed to making a meaningful contribution to space exploration, scientific research and our understanding of the solar system,” he tweeted.
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