Exclusive: The rover will land on the ‘Lake of Dreams’, an area formed by flows of basaltic lava
The Arab world’s first lunar rover, Rashid, will land on the north-eastern part of the Moon’s near side, on a site known as the Lacus Somniorum.
The Latin phrase translates to “Lake of Dreams” and is the primary landing site for the UAE’s lunar mission in 2022. Three other spots have been selected as alternative sites as a precautionary measure.
Dr Hamad Al Marzooqi, project manager of the Emirates Lunar Mission, revealed the landing site to The National in an exclusive interview and said a launch window had been set for next year between August and December.
“Lacus Somniorum was selected as the primary landing site, but there are three other ones that have been chosen as back-ups,” he said.
“This is a place that was selected for two purposes – safety and science. Lunar missions always have areas that would be safe for landing, where you could avoid obstacles.
“The site was also selected because there is some interesting science.
“Landing missions do have back-up sites in case there are issues while landing on the primary landing site.”
Some of the scientific goals behind the mission include studying lunar soil, the geology of the Moon, dust movement and investigating the Moon’s photoelectron sheath for one lunar day – about two weeks on Earth.
What is special about ‘Lake of Dreams’?
The near side of the Moon has a smoother surface and fewer craters, but the terrain is still unpredictable.
The four-wheeled rover can climb over an obstacle up to 10 centimetres tall and descend a 20-degree slope.
But some basins on the near side of the Moon are so steep that were the rover to fall into one, it would be impossible for it to climb out.
Lacus Somniorum will be interesting to study because the surface has a unique composition. It was formed by flows of basaltic lava, giving it a reddish hue.
Timetable of the mission
A small team of engineers at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre are building the 10-kilogram rover.
The first prototype of the lunar vehicle is complete and it will now undergo rigorous testing.
The actual rover sent to the Moon will be assembled once its prototype completes the tests.
A lander developed by Japanese company ispace will deliver the rover to the lunar surface.
The vehicle will be launched on a SpaceX flight from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
Once launched, the rover will take about three months to reach the Moon.
“The journey from the Earth to the Moon depends on the trajectory that you are going to select,” Dr Al Marzooqi said.
“The company we are working with is ispace and their approach is to go through the low-cost trajectory, which means that you will try to use as little fuel as possible in order to arrive at the Moon.
“So, the journey from Earth to the lunar surface will take around three months.”
If the launch happens at the beginning of August, the team predicts the landing sequence will begin by the end of November.