UAE begins work on historic Lunar Gateway project

The Emirates will supply an airlock for the lunar-orbiting station

The UAE's astronaut fleet, Sultan Al Neyadi, Hazza Al Mansouri, Nora Al Matrooshi and Mohammed Al Mulla inspect a Lunar Gateway prototype. Salem Al Marri / X
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The UAE has begun work on a lunar-orbiting station being developed by Nasa, which is set to pave the way for Emirati astronauts to take part in future Moon missions.

The Emirates is to contribute an airlock to the planned Lunar Gateway station as part of a major international collaboration aimed at advancing space exploration.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre this week started to develop the crucial component of the project, said its director general, Salem Al Marri.

He said UAE space officials have held key talks with project chiefs at Nasa's Johnson Space Centre in Houston.

The airlock under development is an airtight room used to exit and enter the space station, which is due to be built by 2028.

"This week, we started the work on the Lunar Gateway Space Station after our leadership announced the UAE's participation in the project," said Mr Al Marri on X, formerly Twitter.

"We had several meetings with the Gateway team at Nasa's Johnson Space Center to co-ordinate the efforts, and our team at MBRSC is starting to work on the Emirates Airlock, which will used in the first lunar station in history.

"We are still in the beginning of the journey, but with the dedication of the MBRSC team and our collaboration with Nasa, the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, I’m sure we will achieve our ambitious goals."

Mr Al Marri shared pictures on social media of a prototype of a part of the Lunar Gateway being inspected by the UAE's astronaut fleet of Sultan Al Neyadi, Hazza Al Mansouri, Mohammed Al Mulla and Nora Al Matrooshi.

"In these photos, you can see the mock-up of Lunar Gateway's Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO), the first constructed part of the Gateway," said Mr Al Marri.

The UAE signed a deal with the US to support the major space initiative this month.

The agreement includes access to the station for UAE astronauts, boosting efforts to send the first Emirati to the Moon's orbit.

Once completed, the airlock will be launched on Nasa's Space Launch System rocket.

What is the Lunar Gateway?

Nasa is developing the station on Earth, before beginning assembly in the Moon's orbit this decade.

It is a crucial part of the US space agency's Artemis programme, which aims to build a sustainable presence of humans on the Moon.

Astronauts will use the Lunar Gateway for Artemis missions, before descending onto the Moon's surface using landing modules that SpaceX and Blue Origin are developing.

The UAE-US agreement currently involves only access to the station and a separate agreement would need to be signed for missions on the lunar surface.

MBRSC is to work with international companies to develop the airlock. The price of constructing it was not revealed, although it could cost as much as $100 million (Dh367.2 million), it has been estimated.

UAE joins Lunar Gateway project - in pictures

Updated: January 22, 2024, 8:42 AM