When the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) revealed that the Rashid Rover will explore the Moon in one lunar day — it meant about 14 Earth days. And during that period, it is expected to generate thousands of images and tonnes of data scientists may have never seen before.
Rashid Rover’s 2022 liftoff for the Moon will come amid a new ‘moon rush’, driven by recent findings about the presence of water reserves and the prospect of establishing future mining operations.
Explaining how Rashid Rover’s one lunar day will go, Dr Hamad Al Marzooqi, Emirates Lunar Mission’s project manager at the MBRSC, said: “One lunar day means 14.25 Earth days…The main scientific experiments of our mission will be conducted during one lunar day…between 12 and 14 Earth days. We will have full access to the rover during those days, so for 24 hours we will have full access to the rover and its coverage. We will be able to generate thousands of images and useful science data throughout the lunar day.”
Though the rover’s landing site has not been revealed yet, Dr Al Marzooqi revealed that it will touch down on an “unexplored area of the Moon”, which will be close to the equator. This will be the first mission in which a home-grown satellite will be landing on another celestial body.
Weighing only 10kg and with just four wheels, the small rover would be tasked to help the experts better understand how lunar dust and rocks vary across the moon. It will send data and images back to Earth, using two high-resolution cameras, a microscopic camera, and a thermal imaging camera.
The one-lunar-day mission planned for Rashid Rover doesn’t actually include the lunar night, which is about as long (14.25 days). “Due to the orbit of the moon around the Earth, the face of the moon is locked towards our planet and we always see only one side of the Moon. The other side is hidden from us. But each side gets sunlight only for 14.25 days,” Al Marzooqi explained.
It would be extremely challenging for the Rashid Rover to withstand the lunar night, he added. The temperature on the moon dramatically changes between its day and night, and when the sunlight disappears on one side, it can get as cold as minus 200 degrees Celsius.
“After the first lunar day the rover will go into hibernation mode. It will sleep during the night until the sun rises again and the temperature on the rover surface starts to rise again,” Al Marzooqi said.
The team will try to reawaken the Rashid rover the next day to see if its systems were able to survive the low temperatures.
“We will try to communicate with the rover on the second lunar day also. So the continuation of the mission throughout the lunar night and the second day is only an extension of the mission. We will try and attempt to survive the lunar night. But the environment out there is really harsh. It is difficult for the instruments to survive at that temperature. We cannot guarantee that this will happen but we will try to attempt to survive the lunar night as well,” he explained.
Currently, the mission is working on prototypes that will resemble a flight model. “This prototype will be tested during summer to go through different qualification testing and a simulated launch,” Al Marzooqi said.