The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has signed an historic agreement with NASA to provide a critical contribution to the Lunar Gateway – a planned space station that will orbit the Moon. The UAE will design, build and deliver an airlock for the orbiting outpost, which will enable astronauts to carry out a range of vital activities on the lunar surface.
UAE Signs Deal to Construct Airlock for Lunar Gateway
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced that the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) will design, build and deliver an airlock for installation on NASA’s Lunar Gateway. 
|Key Facts About the Agreement
|UAE and NASA
|Airlock for Lunar Gateway
|Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre
|Lunar Gateway space station
|Lunar Gateway Orbit
|Will orbit the Moon
The airlock will enable astronauts aboard the Gateway to carrying out extra-vehicular activities (EVAs), exiting and entering the pressurized environment of the station’s cabin to walk on the lunar surface.
Having this capability is essential for achieving NASA’s goal of establishing a sustained human presence on and around the Moon under the Artemis program. The UAE’s contribution therefore marks a major milestone towards constructing a functioning Lunar Gateway. 
UAE Astronaut to Join Artemis Missions to Lunar Gateway
As part of the partnership, the UAE will provide training opportunities for Emirati astronauts who will join NASA crews on Artemis missions aboard the Lunar Gateway and potentially to the surface of the Moon. 
His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum announced via Twitter that an Emirati astronaut will be part of the crew on board the Artemis II mission, which will perform a flyby of the Moon to test systems before attempting a lunar landing on Artemis III. 
This opportunity represents a coming of age for the UAE’s ambitions in space, cementing its status as a key player in humanity’s return to deep space exploration.
Lunar Gateway Will Enable Long Duration Exploration of the Moon
The Lunar Gateway forms a core part of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the Moon’s surface for the first time since the Apollo era. Acting as an orbital outpost, the Gateway will provide vital support for missions to the lunar surface and serve as a staging point for exploration of the broader solar system. 
The modular station will be assembled over time from components launched individually on rockets like NASA’s powerful new Space Launch System. Once complete, the Gateway is designed to enable astronauts to live and work while orbiting the Moon.
Crucially, the outpost will allow for longer duration missions than Apollo offered. While Apollo crews stayed on the lunar surface for just 3 days, the Gateway could support missions of up to 6 months, enabling extensive scientific research and lunar surface operations. 
Airlock Will Enable Astronauts to Access Lunar Surface
The airlock provided by the UAE will play a vital role in achieving the Gateway’s exploration objectives. Astronauts aboard the station will use the airlock to exit and enter the pressurized main cabin, suiting up with their space suits and tools to walk on the lunar surface. 
Once outside, they can carry out scientific experiments, deploy research payloads, harvest resources like lunar ice, and practice techniques for sustained lunar habitation – all building blocks for NASA’s goal of a permanent Moon base. 
The airlock provides the crucial transitional space allowing astronauts to adapt safely to the vacuum environment outside the station. By delivering this vital component, the UAE is ensuring that the Gateway can fulfill its purpose of enabling extensive lunar surface access.
Partnership Forged Through Collaboration on Mars Missions
The partnership has its origins in ongoing cooperation between the UAE and NASA on Mars exploration. In 2021 the UAE made history by successfully placing its Hope probe in orbit around Mars, making it the first Arab nation to reach the planet. 
Building on this achievement and the positive relations it generated, discussions began between NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and UAE leaders on potential collaboration in NASA’s lunar exploration plans.
As Sarah Al Amiri, the chair of the UAE Space Agency noted, the agreement represents a new phase of cooperation following the nation’s successful Mars mission:
“Our collaboration with NASA on the Artemis missions is built on the strong and fruitful strategic relationship between the UAE and the USA in space exploration and technologies.” 
The deal further cements the two nation’s commitment to peaceful exploration and scientific discovery through partnership in space.
What Comes Next? Plans for Launch and Astronaut Crews
Now the agreement has been signed, efforts will ramp up to make the ambitious partnership a reality. Engineers at MBRSC will work with NASA colleagues to finalize the airlock’s design before starting fabrication and testing. 
The UAE aims to deliver the completed airlock to NASA by 2026. It will then be launched aboard a commercial rocket and rendezvous with the Lunar Gateway for installation and integration ahead of the planned first crewed mission. 
In parallel, Emirati astronauts will train shoulder to shoulder with NASA crew members selected for lunar missions. These could include veterans like Jessica Meir and Christina Koch, who have experience on the International Space Station (ISS). 
The first Artemis mission that could carry an Emirati crew member is Artemis II, currently slated for launch in 2026. This uncrewed test flight will see the new Orion capsule complete a flyby of the Moon before returning to Earth. 
The following Artemis III mission aims to achieve the first lunar landing since Apollo 17 in 1972. The historic flight could include an Emirati astronaut, who would play a role in NASA’s goal of establishing a sustained human presence on the lunar surface. 
Quotes from UAE and NASA Leadership
Responding to the announcement, UAE leaders emphasized the national pride and global goodwill resulting from the agreement. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said:
“This is a great day for the UAE as we celebrate a new milestone with NASA and steadfast international partners. The future of scientific collaboration across borders looks bright.” 
Meanwhile, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson focused on the concrete advance the deal represents for the Artemis program:
“Using the lunar Gateway as a staging point is essential to our sustainable return to the Moon. This partnership with the UAE ensures the Gateway’s airlock will be available for NASA and international astronauts to perform moonwalks.” 
Sarah Al Amiri also highlighted the UAE’s trailblazing status as the first Arab nation to collaborate with NASA on human spaceflight programs.
“The UAE is proud to be the first Arab nation to participate in human space flight initiatives.” 
In sum, the agreement seals an advanced technological collaboration while also symbolizing positive relations between the US and UAE.
That concludes an overview summarizing the key facts and implications of the NASA-UAE Lunar Gateway partnership announcement. By committing to provide such an essential Gateway component, the UAE is both enabling Artemis program objectives and cementing its status as a leader in space development. The coming years promise to reveal the concrete fruits of this ambitious collaboration.
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