Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

UAE to send its first mission to solar system’s main asteroid belt

Following the success of its mission to Mars, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) plans to send a new spacecraft to an asteroid belt to investigate the history of the solar system and the potential origins of life.

The aim is for the Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt (EMA) to visit its first asteroid in 2030. It will visit a number of asteroids in the belt between Mars and Jupiter, following a launch in 2028, and will even land on one. The spacecraft will be named MBR after the ruler of UAE.

An artist's impression of the MBR Explorer spacecraft approaching an asteroid.
An artist’s impression of the MBR Explorer spacecraft approaching an asteroid. UAE Space Agency

Studying asteroids is an important way to learn about the history of the solar system, as the material that makes up asteroids can be almost pristine, dating back to the formation of the solar system around 4 billion years ago. Recent missions like NASA’s OSIRIS-REx and Japan’s Hayabusa2 have demonstrated the feasibility of visiting asteroids and collecting valuable scientific data.

To extend current knowledge, the EMA mission will have four science instruments — two spectrometers, a high-resolution optical camera, and an infrared camera — which will be used to study features of the asteroids like their geology and composition.

The mission will first perform flybys of six asteroids: Westerwald, Chimaera, Rockox, 2000 VA28, 1998 RC76, and 1999 SG6. It will then touch down on asteroid Justitia by deploying a lander from the main spacecraft. Justitia is particularly interesting to scientists because it is thought to have originated from beyond the orbit of Neptune, and research has shown evidence of the presence of organic molecules, or the building blocks of life, there.

The UAE says the project will consist of a six-year development period followed by seven years of exploration by the spacecraft. “MBR Explorer’s journey to the the Asteroid Belt will span over 5 billion kilometers, surpassing Mars, as we explore 7 asteroids and ultimately land on Justitia in 2034,” the Dubai media office wrote on Twitter. “The remarkable journey will be 10 times the distance covered by the Hope Probe. For Emiratis, our motto will always be ‘nothing is impossible.'”

The UAE launched its first mission to Mars with the Emirates Mars Mission in 2020, making the Hope spacecraft the first interplanetary mission by an Arab nation. Since its arrival at Mars in 2021, Hope has made discoveries about the upper martian atmosphere and the auroras that exist at Mars.

The UAE also sent its first astronaut to the International Space Station in 2019, Hazza Ali Almansoori, followed by Sultan Al Neyadi, who launched in March of this year as part of SpaceX Crew-6 and who is still currently on board the station.

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
NASA’s DART spacecraft gets its first glimpse of target asteroid
Artist’s impression of the asteroid (234) Barbara.

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft has caught its first glimpse of the asteroid that it’s set to slam into on September 26.

The Dimorphos asteroid poses no threat to Earth, but NASA wants to find out if it can change an asteroid’s flight path by crashing a spacecraft into it so that it can protect our planet from hazardous space rocks in the future.

Read more
Rocket Lab plans to send the first private mission to Venus
Illustration of Rocket Lab's mission to Venus.

While for decades Mars has been the planet outside Earth that has arguably received the most attention, in recent years, planetary scientists have been setting their sites on our other neighbor: Venus. This strange planet with its hellishly high temperatures and incredible surface pressure will be the site for two upcoming NASA missions and one European Space Agency mission in the next decade, and these agency missions will also be joined by a private space mission from New Zealand-based company Rocket Lab.

Rocket Lab recently shared more details for its planned mission to Venus in a publication in the journal Aerospace. With a planned launch in 2023, it will be the first private mission to Venus and will use Rocket Lab's Electron rocket and Photon spacecraft.

Read more
Virgin Orbit successfully launches its first night mission
Virgin Orbit launches night mission.

Virgin Orbit launched seven satellites using its LauncherOne system last night, Friday, July 1, in its first nighttime launch. While other companies like SpaceX or Rocket Lab use rockets for such launches, Virgin Orbit attaches a booster to a modified aircraft that carries it to 30,000 feet before releasing it. The booster then makes the rest of the journey into orbit and deploys its payload.

LauncherOne took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 10:50 p.m. PT, with the satellites deployed at 12:55 a.m. PT on Saturday, July 2. If you'd like to watch the launch, you can see a replay of the livestream below or on Virgin Orbit's YouTube channel:

Read more