The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced on Tuesday, Oct. 5, that it is in the process of launching a space probe destined to land on an asteroid between Mars and Jupiter. The reported goal is to gather information regarding the origin of the universe. 

The ambitious oil-rich nation aims to have everything ready to launch the probe in 2028, and the landing is scheduled for 2033.

According to ABC News, the journey will take about five years and cover an approximate distance of 2.2 billion miles,

According to the UAE Space Agency, the project will be carried out in partnership with the University of Colorado’s Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Physics. However, the officials declined to provide the budget they will have available to achieve the objective at this stage.

“The mission will be an extraordinary challenge compared to previous research since the spacecraft will have to travel both near and far from the sun, which will expose it to a significant temperature difference depending on the time of travel,” said Sarah al-Amiri, president of the UAE Space Agency.

This project falls under the Emirates Mars mission; it’s noticeably more difficult, rather than exponentially more difficult,” al-Amiri told The Associated Press. “If we wanted to do this mission from the beginning without having the background that we currently have provided by the Emirates Mars mission, it would be much more difficult to accomplish.”

The project follows the successful send of the Amal probe, also known as Hope, which was launched into orbit around Mars in Feb. 2021.

The Amal probe, which is the size of a car, cost about $200 million to build and launch. The asteroid mission just announced is likely to be more expensive given its complex challenges and high risks.

Why the interest in asteroids

According to NASA, about 1.1 million known asteroids circulate within the solar system. Most of them orbit the sun in the area between Mars and Jupiter, the target of the planned UAE mission. 

The main interest in investigating asteroids is that their composition includes the building blocks of the world as we know it today, which could provide critical information to more accurately determine the origin of the universe, says the Space Agency.

UAE joins the ‘space race’

The UAE is slowly but with highly ambitious projects, joining the small list of countries engaged in cosmic space exploration. These include the European Union, Japan, and the United States. 

In addition to the recently unveiled projects, the Emirates plans to send an unmanned spacecraft to the moon in 2024 and has also publicly announced the goal of building a human colony on Mars by 2117.

“The landing of people on other planets has been a longtime dream for humans. Our aim is that the UAE will spearhead international efforts to make this dream a reality,” said Arab Sheikh Sheikh Mohammad about the ambitious project.

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