The United Arab Emirates’ historic first mission to Mars has had a successful lift-off in Japan. The space probe named “Hope” launched on an H2-A rocket from Tanegashima spaceport, and is now on a 500-million-km journey to study the planet’s weather and climate. This marks the Arab world’s first outer space mission and to Mars. Hope is scheduled to return in February 2021 coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the formation of the UAE.
The UAE government revealed that it couldn’t purchase the spacecraft from a big, foreign corporation; as a result, it had to build the satellite itself. Therefore, the government went into partnership with American universities that had the necessary experience. Emirati and US engineers and scientists worked side by side to design and build the spacecraft systems and the three onboard instruments that will study the planet. The mission is headed by Her Excellency Sarah Al Amiri and will be commanded from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai.
Their engineers, mentored by American experts, went on to produce a sophisticated probe in just six years – and when this satellite gets to Mars, it’s expected to deliver new scientific intelligence, reporting fresh insights on the workings of the planet’s atmosphere. Particularly, scientists think it can add to our understanding of how Mars lost much of its air and with it a great deal of its water.
Before the successful launch, two previous attempts to launch the probe in the past week had to be called off because of adverse weather. Now, the United Arab Emirates have, against all odds, embarked on a mission that only the US, Russia, Europe and India have succeeded in doing. The satellite is one of a number of projects starting out the UAE government’s intention to shift its dependence on oil and gas and towards a future based on a knowledge economy.