After Russia’s exit from Lunar Gateway, NASA found a new partner in the UAE

Enlarge / An artist’s concept of the Lunar Gateway that includes elements from international partners.

NASA/Alberto Bertolin

Relations between NASA and the Russian public space company were quite strong five years ago when the two sides signed a joint statement that discussed a partnership on the development of a space station orbiting the Moon, called Lunar Gateway. At the time, the Russian Roscosmos had to provide an airlock for the installation.

A lot has happened in the five years that followed, of course. In 2020, as NASA began to more concretely formulate its plans for lunar exploration under the Artemis program, Russia began to pull out.

“In our view, the Lunar Gateway in its current form is too US-centric, so to speak,” Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin said. “Russia will probably refrain from participating on a large scale.” At the time, Rogozin also expressed contempt for the “Artemis Accords” created by NASA, which established a set of principles to guide cooperation among nations participating in the NASA’s 21st century lunar exploration plans. ‘agency.

By the time Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, the country had already been moving towards collaborating with China on an “international lunar research station”. It’s a parallel effort to NASA’s Artemis program, which invites countries to join China and Russia in cooperating on lunar exploration.

As Russia moved away from NASA, nearly two dozen countries signed multilateral agreements to join NASA’s Artemis Accords. One of the founding member countries, the United Arab Emirates, is looking to deepen its participation. On Tuesday, The National reported that the United Arab Emirates was in talks with NASA to provide an airlock for the Lunar Gateway. The tiny Middle Eastern nation has worked with Boeing on designs.

Separately, a source confirmed to Ars that the UAE had been talking with NASA for about a year to provide an airlock for the bridge. The first elements of this small station, which will fly in a halo orbit around the Moon, should be launched on a Falcon Heavy rocket at the end of 2024 or 2025. Humans will not live permanently on the bridge, as with the International Space Station, but rather inhabit it periodically. An airlock would facilitate spacewalks.

The Islamic nation, which is smaller than the US state of Maine, has a population of around 9 million people. However, he expressed an inordinate interest in space exploration. In June 2020, through a partnership with the University of Colorado at Boulder, the UAE space program sent the “Hope” probe to Mars to study the atmosphere of the red planet. UAE officials said the aim of the program is to inspire the younger generation to pursue science, technology, engineering and medicine. At the time, only Russia, the United States, the European Union and India had managed to put a spacecraft in orbit around Mars.

Last weekend, the United Arab Emirates took part in its first lunar launch. His small lunar rover Rashid was a passenger on board the Hakuto-R lander, commercially developed by the Japanese company ispace. This mission was successfully launched on a Falcon 9 rocket and is expected to land on the Moon early next year.

The country also has a small corps of astronauts. In 2019, Hazza Al Mansouri flew to the International Space Station on a Soyuz rocket for eight days as a visiting astronaut. Next February, Sultan Al Neyadi is expected to join the Crew-6 mission, where he will spend about six months aboard the space station. Its seat was brokered by Axiom Space. Other UAE astronauts are training in Houston for future space missions.

Through its partnership in the Artemis Accords, the UAE is positioning itself to send an astronaut to the lunar gateway later in the decade, and possibly to the surface of the Moon in the 2030s.

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