The Hope probe took off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan, after a delay last week due to bad weather. The solid rocket booster was successfully detached from the launch vehicle, and the probe established two-way communication with the ground floor in Dubai.
The Hope probe, as it is called in Arabic, is expected to reach Mars by February 2021. This will be the first time that the UAE has orbited Mars, and the probe will remain in orbit for a Martian year – the equivalent of 687 days on Earth – To collect data about the atmosphere of Mars.
“It is an honor for me to be part of the global deep space exploration effort,” tweeted the official Hope Mars Mission account after the launch. “The probe of hope is the culmination of every step humans have taken throughout history to explore the unknown depths of space.”
The United States and China also embarked on Mars’ missions this summer. The Perseverance Rover from Chinese NASA and Tianjin 1 is expected to launch sometime between late July and early August, although the exact date will depend on daily launch conditions.
These three countries will be launched this summer because there is a window every two years when Earth and Mars are closer to each other, making the trip a little shorter.
The growing space sector
The Hope Probe is the latest and most ambitious step in the UAE in the booming space sector.
Government officials have previously spoken of the space program as a catalyst for the country’s growing science, technology, engineering and mathematics sector.
Just reaching this far was a remarkable achievement for the Gulf country. Most Mars assignments take 10 to 12 years to develop – but UAE scientists have only six years to implement the project.
To build the spacecraft, they partnered with a team in the United States, at the University of Colorado Boulder Astrophysics and Astrophysics Laboratory. To find a new science goal for the Hope mission, they consulted the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG), a forum created by NASA to plan to explore Mars.
Sarah Al-Amiri, a science pioneer at the mission, said they decided to use Hope to build the first complete picture of the Martian climate throughout the Martian year.
“The data gathered by the investigation will bring a new dimension to human knowledge,” Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said on Twitter. “This is our most recent contribution to the world.”
Studying the Martian weather system, including changes in the atmosphere and climate, can help understand how Mars – a planet that used to share Earth’s properties – from rivers and lakes to no water on its surface, said Al-Amery.
To assemble the puzzle, the probe aims to take a variety of measurements, allowing different theories to be explored. The Emiri says the team is particularly interested in the potential link between dust storms and the loss of hydrogen and oxygen – the building blocks of water – from the atmosphere of Mars.
Jenny Mark and Stephanie Bailey of CNN contributed to this report.