For years, astronomers have discovered several space rocks within the asteroid belt region. In a recent announcement, United Arab Emirates (UAE) revealed its plan to send a spacecraft to study an asteroid in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter with the potential of hosting the building blocks of life. In October 2021, the UAE first disclosed its plans to send a unique space mission to the asteroid belt in 2028. The country revealed that the anticipated mission will be expected to visit about seven different asteroids and possibly land on one of them named (269) Justitia.
However, the UAE revealed more details about this mission in its Sunday, May 28 announcement. The nation boldly described the name of this mission to be, the Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt (EMA). The UAE is so determined to attain greater height in studying the asteroid belt region from this mission.
“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 a statement.
The UAE’s Plan for The Upcoming Mission to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter
The UAE is planning the EMA mission with a powerful spacecraft named after the Sheikh. During the Sunday announcement, the nation’s officials revealed that the spacecraft will be called the MBR Explorer and will fly to its first asteroid in 2030. After its visit to the first asteroid, the space probe will conduct an orbital path to study the speed from several planets along the route.
During most deep space missions, the space agencies often mandate the space probes to conduct gravity assists around space worlds like Venus or Mars to save more fuel and conduct side observations testing their instruments as well. The UAE will also be sending the MBR Explorer on the mission conducting gravity assistance to save the spacecraft’s fuel for the success of the mission.
The space probe will fly past six asteroids before finally landing on the surface of Justitia in 2034 with a small lander which will land on the asteroid from MBR Explorer. But why Justitia if you may ask? Astronomers have discovered that the space rock may likely contain organic molecules on its surface.
Organics exist as building blocks of the complex molecules that could possibly form life under a suitable environmental condition. Scientists have been searching for water and organics across several celestial bodies in the solar system. Hence, if the MBR explorer discovers unique organics on Justitia, we may be closer to finding life outside our home planet, Earth.
Other Asteroids That the MBR Explorer Will Be Visiting
Aside from landing on the surface of Justitia, the MBR Explorer will be conducting flybys on asteroids (10254) Westerwald, (623) Chimaera, (13294) Rockox; (88055) 2000 VA28, (23871) 1998 RC76 and (59980) 1999 SG6. “different classes of an asteroid with varied compositional types,” UAE Space Agency officials said in the same statement. Justitia and Chimaera are about 31 miles (50 kilometers) in diameter. The rest of the asteroids are less than 6 miles (10 km) across each other.
The MBR space probe will fly to the belt region with four science instruments to study the composition, geology, and structure of the asteroids. These instruments include a high-resolution camera, a mid-wavelength spectrometer, a thermal infrared camera, and an infrared spectrometer. With these powerful instruments, the MBR explorer will capture fascinating details of the seven asteroids within the belt region.
The UAE Space Agency, which came into existence in 2014 has already accomplished a lot in space exploration. Despite being one of the youngest space agencies in existence, the UAE successfully launched the Hope Mars Orbiter in 2020 and preparing to launch its MBR Explorer to the asteroid belt. The outcome of this upcoming mission will enable scientists to learn more about asteroids orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter.