Wed, 10 February 2021
The United Arab Emirates’ first mission to Mars reached the red planet and entered orbit today after a seven-month, 494m kilometre journey, allowing it to start sending data about the Martian atmosphere and climate.
The Mars programme is part of the UAE’s efforts to develop its scientific and technological capabilities and reduce its reliance on oil. The UAE Space Agency, the fifth globally to reach the planet, even has a plan for a Mars settlement by 2117.
“Contact with #HopeProbe has been established again. The Mars Orbit Insertion is now complete,” said the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, where the ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was present to receive the news.
To enter Mars’ orbit, the probe needed to burn around half of its 800kg of on-board fuel to slow down enough not to overshoot, the most dangerous part of the journey.
“Today is the start of a new chapter in Arab history ... of trust in our capability to compete with other nations and people,” Shaikh Mohammed tweeted after the probe entered orbit. “The UAE will celebrate its Golden Jubilee with science, culture and inspiration because we aim to build a model of development.”
This year marks 50 years since independence from Britain and the founding of the UAE federation, which groups seven emirates, including Dubai. Mars probes launched by China and NASA just after the UAE’s lift-off in July are also set to reach the planet this month.
The Emirates Mars Mission, which has cost around BD754k, launched the Hope Probe from a Japanese space centre. It aims to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere for the first time, studying daily and seasonal changes.
It will take a few weeks to start collecting a mixture of data and images, which could be made publicly available as early as September.
The UAE first announced plans for the mission in 2014 and launched a National Space Programme in 2017 to develop local expertise.
Hazza al-Mansouri became the first Emirati in space in 2019 when he flew to the International Space Station.
To develop and build the Hope Probe, Emiratis and Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) worked with U.S. educational institutions.
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