After being twice delayed, the UAE’s Hope Probe to Mars will finally launch Monday (July 20), at 1.58am UAE time from the Tanegashima Space Centre (TNSC) on Tanegashima Island, Japan. The Emirates Mars Mission, the first Arab interplanetary mission, will be lifted to space aboard Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ H-IIA rocket, for the first stage of a seven-month journey to the red planet’s orbit.
The Hope Probe is expected to reach Mars in February 2021, coinciding with the Golden Jubilee of the Union and making the UAE the fifth country to reach the red planet.
The launch was originally scheduled on July 15 and then move to July 17 due to bad weather. The mission has a launch window until August 3.
Ahead of the launch, UAE leaders met the members of the teams at the launch site and the control station in Dubai in a video call. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and President of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), were briefed on the pre-flight preparations.
In a Twitter post, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid said the UAE Hope Probe's highly anticipated launch will be an inspiring milestone for the young generation. "In 1976, the late Sheikh Zayed met Nasa experts because space was his ambition. Today, you are making his dream come true," he told the launch team in Japan.
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed likewise credited the efforts of the youthful team, which he described as “our most significant investment” in a Twitter post. Addressing the Emirates Mars Mission team, he said, "We are certain that we will live up to the trust and confidence of our ancestors who established this home for us and granted us stability, prosperity and bright future."
He also commended Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid for being the main driving force of the mission. "Thanks to your efforts and determination, we see these young talents today bringing pride to us, their families, their country and the Arab world,” he said. “This historic event would not have been possible without the devotion, determination and persistence of my brother Mohammed Bin Rashid to make this day a milestone in our lives and in the journey of our nation. You were the main factor behind this event. On behalf of every Emirati, I thank my brother Mohammed Bin Rashid for making this possible."
Why UAE is going to Mars
In a video posted on Twitter where he explains the reasons the UAE is going to Mars, Sheikh Hamdan underlined the importance of space programmes as “the gateway to science and talent development”.
“We are going to Mars because the UAE wants to be at the forefront of the Arab scientific movement,” said Sheikh Hamdan. “Our journey to Mars is a message of hope to all Arabs that we can compete with the world in science and technology. The UAE today leads the Arab knowledge transformation.”
According to the UAE Space Agency, the primary mission of the Hope Probe is to draw a clear and comprehensive picture of the Martian climate, which could help scientists better understand the “past and future of our own planet as well as the potential of life for humans on Mars and on other distant planets”.
The mission expects to gather over 1 terabyte of new data, which will be freely shared with more than 200 academic and scientific institutions around the world.
The Hope Probe will cover more than 490 million kilometers into space, with a cruise speed of 121,000 km/hr. The unmanned probe took 5.5 million hours of work to develop, involving a team of 200 Emirati engineers.
“We are going to Mars because Mars is the means to greater aims,” said Sheikh Hamdan. “Our aim is not merely to build a probe and launch it but build the foundation for tomorrow.”
According to the UAE Space Agency, among the scientific objectives of the Hope Probe include:
• Integrate with the global Mars science community on key questions that no other mission has addressed.
• Study why Mars is losing its upper atmosphere to space by tracking the behaviour and escape of hydrogen and oxygen, the building blocks of water.
• Investigate the connection between the lower and upper levels of the Martian atmosphere.
• Create the first global picture of how the Martian atmosphere changes through the day and between seasons.
• Observe weather phenomena, such as dust storms, changes in temperature, and how the atmosphere interacts with the topography.
• Reveal the causes of Martian surface corrosion.
• Search for connections between today’s weather and the ancient climate of the red planet.
To achieve its objectives, the Hope Probe has been equipped with three state-of-the-art instruments designed to study the different aspects of the Martian atmosphere: Emirates Mars Infrared Spectrometer (Emirs), Emirates Exploration Imager (EXI) and Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer (Emus).
Emirs will be able to study Mars’ lower atmosphere in the infrared band and measure the global distribution of dust, ice clouds, water vapours and temperature profiles. It will also provide the linkages from the lower to the upper atmosphere in conjunction with Emus and EXI observations.
EXI will study the lower atmosphere of the red planet in visible and ultraviolet bands. It will also be used to capture high-resolution images of Mars and measure the optical depth of water ice in the atmosphere.
Emus will be able to detect ultraviolet wavelength and determine the abundance and variability of carbon monoxide and oxygen in the thermosphere on sub-seasonal timescales. It will also calculate the three-dimensional structure and variability of oxygen and hydrogen in the exosphere, and measure the relative changes in the thermosphere.
Project name: Emirates Mars Mission
Probe name: Hope Probe
Who’s directing the show: Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre has been responsible for the design, development and launch of the Hope Probe, with the UAE Space Agency providing funding for the project.
Launch window: July 15 – Aug 3
Launch location: Tanegashima Space Centre, Japan
Cruising distance: 493.5 million km
Mission duration: One Martian year (about two Earth years)
Probe weight: 1,350kg (including fuel, or the equivalent of a small car)
Probe dimensions: 3m x 7.9m (with solar panels open)