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UAE partners with Nasa to develop lunar space station

Astronomy, Outer Space, Moon Nasa
An artist's impression of the Gateway lunar space station. In-orbit assembly is planned to begin in 2028
  • Gateway station will orbit moon
  • UAE to provide airlock module
  • MBRSC in support role

The UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and Nasa have agreed to collaborate on the Gateway project, the world’s first space station to orbit the moon.

As part of the agreement, MBRSC will provide Gateway’s Crew and Science Airlock module.

The US state space agency will fly a UAE astronaut to Gateway in a future Artemis mission.

“By combining our resources, scientific capacity and technical skill, the US and UAE will further our collective vision for space and ensure it presents extraordinary opportunities for everyone here on Earth,” said US vice president Kamala Harris.

“The UAE’s provision of the airlock to Gateway will allow astronauts to conduct groundbreaking science in deep space and prepare to one day send humanity to Mars,” Nasa administrator Bill Nelson added.

In addition to operating the airlock, MBRSC will provide engineering support for the life of the lunar space station. The airlock will allow crew and science research transfers to and from the habitable environment of Gateway’s pressurised crew modules to the vacuum of space.

Gateway will support sustained exploration and research in deep space, provide a home for astronauts to live and work, including a staging point for lunar surface missions, and an opportunity to conduct spacewalks while orbiting the moon.

The Crew and Science airlock module will be built by the UAENasa
The Crew and Science airlock module will be built by the UAE

In collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency, European Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and MBRSC, Nasa will return humans to the lunar surface for scientific discovery and chart a path for the first human missions to Mars.

In 2019 Hazzaa Almansoori became the first Emirati to fly to space during a short mission to the International Space Station.

A second Emirati astronaut, Sultan Al Neyadi, launched to the space station last year on Nasa’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission.

The UAE has two additional astronaut candidates in training at Nasa’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. In addition, the US space agency has worked with the UAE on Mars research and human research as well as analogue studies to support mutual exploration priorities.

The Gateway news follows the successful launch this morning of United Launch Alliance’s uncrewed Vulcan rocket, which is now on its way to the moon carrying the Peregrine 1 lander.

Built by space robotics company Astrobotic, the Peregrine mission hopes to result in the first lunar landing by a private company.

In 2020 the US and UAE were among the original signers of the Artemis Accords, a set of principles to guide space exploration cooperation among nations participating in Nasa’s 21st century lunar exploration programme.

Through Artemis, Nasa will land the first woman and the first person of colour on the surface of the Moon, paving the way for a long-term lunar presence and serving as a stepping stone to send the first astronauts to Mars.

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