UAE Embarks on a New Space Odyssey

Groundbreaking Partnership with NASA for Artemis Lunar Gateway Airlock and Moon Mission

In a historic collaboration, NASA and the United Arab Emirates’ Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) have unveiled plans for the UAE to contribute an airlock to Gateway, humanity’s inaugural space station orbiting the Moon. The lunar space station, designed to foster long-term exploration under NASA’s Artemis program, signifies a monumental step in international cooperation for the advancement of space exploration.

US Vice President Kamala Harris, chair of the National Space Council, emphasized the significance of this collaboration, stating, “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.”

Under a new implementing arrangement, MBRSC will provide Gateway’s Crew and Science Airlock module, along with a UAE astronaut set to embark on a future Artemis mission to the lunar space station. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson marked the occasion as a historic moment, stating, “The US and the UAE are marking a historic moment in our nations’ collaboration in space, and the future of human space exploration.”

MBRSC’s role extends beyond the airlock provision, as they will also offer engineering support throughout the lunar space station’s operational lifespan. The airlock will facilitate crew and science research transfers between the pressurized crew modules of Gateway and the vacuum of space, enabling groundbreaking science in the deep space environment and supporting maintenance activities.

Gateway is envisioned to serve as a hub for sustained exploration and research in deep space, offering a habitat for astronauts, acting as a staging point for lunar surface missions, and providing opportunities for spacewalks while orbiting the Moon.

NASA’s Artemis program, characterized by its diverse coalition of nations, including the Canadian Space Agency, European Space Agency, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, now welcomes MBRSC into its fold. This collaboration aligns with NASA’s goal to return humans to the lunar surface, advance scientific discovery, and pave the way for future human missions to Mars.

The UAE’s active participation in space exploration is evident through its ambitious space program. In 2019, Hazzaa Almansoori became the first Emirati to fly to space, collaborating with NASA during a mission to the International Space Station. Sultan Al Neyadi, the second Emirati astronaut, participated in NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission in 2023, contributing to scientific research aboard the floating laboratory.

With two more UAE astronaut candidates undergoing training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and previous collaborations on Mars research and human studies, this partnership reaffirms the commitment of the US and UAE to mutual exploration priorities.

The collaboration echoes the principles outlined in the Artemis Accords, signed by the US and UAE in 2020. Through the Artemis program, NASA aims to achieve significant milestones, including landing the first woman and the first person of color on the Moon, establishing a long-term lunar presence, and paving the way for the first astronauts to set foot on Mars.