It will take 7 years for the spacecraft to be ready for the mission with the launch date planned for 2028. It would orbit Venus and then Earth, using gravity assist maneuvers to slingshot and reach an asteroid belt object in 2030.
The vehicle would then observe seven main-belt asteroids, before landing on an asteroid 560 million kilometers from Earth in 2033.
The mission will be developed with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
The 3.6-billion-kilometer journey measures 7 times longer than that of the UAE’s Hope probe that reached Mars in February 2021.
The Hope probe, a $200 million project, was six years in the making and made the UAE only the fifth country in the world to reach Mars, and the first to do so in the Arab world.
“We have set our eyes to the stars because our journey to development and progress has no boundaries, no borders, and no limitations … With each new advancement we make in space, we create opportunities for young people here on Earth,” UAE Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said of the plan on Tuesday.
Sheikh Mohammed also posted on Twitter: “A third of the stars in the sky have Arab names, because Arabs were pioneers of astronomy. Our mission is to boost the glory of the Arab civilization. If we don’t act today, when will we?”
The spacecraft will land between Mars and Jupiter to collect data on the origins of the universe.
The probe would remain behind on the asteroid, transmitting back to Earth information on the composition of the asteroid as long as its batteries remain charged.
The mission will travel both near the sun and far from it, said Sarah al-Amiri, the chair of the UAE Space Agency and a minister of state for advanced technology.
“Because this comes on the back of the Emirates Mars mission, it is several factors harder, rather than exponentially harder,” al-Amiri told The Associated Press.
Some 1.1 million known asteroids circulate in the solar system, the remnants of its formation, according to NASA, and most orbit the sun in the area between Mars and Jupiter.
The UAE has plans to send an unmanned rover to the moon by 2024 and set a goal to build a human colony on Mars by 2117.
The mission brings extensive challenges that go beyond The Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) in terms of spacecraft design and engineering, interplanetary navigation, and complex systems integration, requiring new levels of performance from its communications, power, and propulsion systems as well as demanding intensive mission control. The precise science goals and instrumentation to be deployed on the mission are to be announced in mid-2022.