United Arab Emirates Launches First Mission To Mars
Soon, there’ll be Hope on the Red Planet – United Arab Emirates has successfully launched its first mission to Mars.
The Emirates Mars Mission marks the first interplanetary operation for UAE, with a car-sized probe bound for our red neighbour sometime in February 2021. There, it’ll analyse the planet’s atmosphere and climate with each passing day.
Propped up on top of a Japanese H-IIA rocket from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center, the spacecraft – named Hope – blasted off yesterday, July 19.
You can check out a video of Hope blasting off below:
If successful in falling into Mars’ orbit, the UAE will have managed a feat only managed by a small handful of spacecraft across the history of space travel.
Following the launch, Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the US, said during a livestream:
Years of hard work and dedication have paid off in a big way. Thanks to the mission team efforts, the UAE’s first spacecraft, which six years ago was just a concept, just an idea, is now flying into space well on its way to another planet. This is a huge accomplishment. But it’s just the beginning.
The timing of this launch was key: the project was initially envisioned in 2014 as a way to mark the 50th anniversary of the nation’s founding next year. In order to meet this deadline, Hope had to soar into the skies this summer, when Earth and Mars are at their closest during their orbits around the sun. If they missed this chance, the mission would have been delayed two years.
As reported by The Verge, Omran Sharaf, the project manager for the Emirates Mars Mission, said:
The government was very clear to us about it: they wanted us to come up with a new model of executing such missions and delivering such missions. So they didn’t want something with a big, big budget. They wanted something to be delivered quick, fast, and something that we can share with the rest of the world, about how they can approach missions.
Armed with a $200 million budget, the country’s engineers quickly got to work alongside several US academic institutions, such as the University of Colorado at Boulder, Arizona State University, and the University of California, Berkeley, all of which had invaluable experience in the field of deep space probes.
While it’s smooth sailing for Hope right now, there’s big challenges ahead. Next month, engineers will essentially have to nudge the probe to correct its course. ‘It’s equivalent to an archer hitting a two-millimetre target, one kilometre away. So this is not for the faint of heart,’ Pete Withnell, the program manager for the mission at the University Colorado Boulder, explained.
When February 2021 rolls around, ground control will burn Hope’s thrusters for 30 minutes in a bid to insert it into Mars’ orbit, slowing it down from 75,000 miles-per-hour to more than 11,000 miles-per-hour.
For keen Martians, there’s plenty of interplanetary action in the coming weeks. On July 23, China is set to send an orbiter, lander, and rover to Mars. NASA will launch its Perseverance rover a week later, with hopes it’ll find past signs of life on the planet.
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