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UAE announces asteroid belt project to look for signs of the beginning of life


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After successfully launching the Hope spacecraft to Mars in 2020, the oil-rich United Arab Emirates disclosed plans on Monday to send a spacecraft to investigate the main asteroid belt of the solar system.

The Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt initiative plans to build a spacecraft over the next few years, launch it in 2028, and conduct research on a variety of asteroids.

According to Mohsen Al Awadhi, program director of the Emirates project to the Asteroid Belt, “this mission is a follow-up and a follow on the Mars mission, where it was the first mission to Mars from the region.” “With this mission, we’re producing the same thing.

When the UAE’s Hope probe arrived to the red planet in February 2021, it became the first Arab nation and the second nation ever to successfully enter Mars’ orbit on its first attempt. The mission’s objectives include giving the first comprehensive view of the Martian atmosphere and its layers and assisting in the resolution of important queries regarding the planet’s composition and climate.

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If successful, the recently announced spacecraft will travel for seven years to six asteroids, reaching speeds of up to 33,000 kilometers (20,500 miles) per hour. The deployment of a landing vehicle onto a seventh, extremely rare “red” asteroid, which researchers believe may contain information on the components of life on Earth, will mark the conclusion of the mission.

Some asteroids have been found to contain organic materials, including water, which are essential components of life. These materials may have come from collisions with other things rich in organic material or from the synthesis of intricate organic molecules in space. It may be possible to learn more about the origin of Earth’s water and gain important insights into the beginning of life on our planet by looking into the origins of these compounds and the potential presence of water on red asteroids.

The project is a major accomplishment for the developing UAE Space Agency, founded in 2014, as it builds on its achievement in launching the Amal, or “Hope,” probe to Mars. Over 10 times more distance would be covered on the new route than on the Mars expedition.

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The explorer is known as MBR after Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and the vice president and prime minister of the UAE, both of which are hereditarily held positions. It will first go toward Venus, where the gravitational attraction of the planet will cause it to slingshot back past the Earth and then Mars.

After traveling 5 billion kilometers (about 3 billion miles), the spacecraft will finally arrive at the asteroid belt, flying as near to the space rocks as 150 kilometers (93 miles).

The last drive to the seventh and final asteroid, Justitia, is anticipated to be made by the spacecraft in October 2034. A lander will then be released over a year later. It’s possible that Justitia, one of only two known red asteroids, has a surface covered in organic compounds.

One of the two reddest asteroids in the asteroid belt, according to Hoor AlMaazmi, a space science researcher at the UAE space agency, is so red for unknown reasons. There are ideas that it came from the Kuiper Belt, where there are many more red objects, in its original form. As a result, that is one area that we can research as it may also be water-rich.

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To explore the surface of Justitia, which will be entirely created by private UAE start-up enterprises, the MBR Explorer will send out a landing craft. It might pave the way for potential asteroidal resource extraction in the future to finance prolonged human space flights, and possibly even the UAE’s grandiose plan to construct a space station.

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