From the “Space Race” era of the 1950s-60s, when only two nations/superpowers were capable of launching satellites and spacecraft from Earth to either planetary orbit or a moon mission, the modern-day space age has since become for the most part a collaborative environment where nations with satellite or spaceflight capability would help one another. True, notable space launches are still the domain of the US and Russia, and then joined by the European Union, China and others, but when a new national space agency manages to perform their own space program milestone after another, it is heartening news, such as the UAE’s Mars probe mission.
According to The Verge, a space launch from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan Sunday, July 19 (or Monday in Japanese time), was the culmination of preparations, and a successful beginning to the Mars Mission of the United Arab Emirates Space Agency (UAESA). The Japanese-built H-IIA rocket was carrying Hope, a proudly Emirati-built orbiter space probe from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in Dubai. With its three primary instruments, the Hope probe will commence an in-depth study of the atmosphere in the Red Planet, Mars, towards which the rocket delivery vehicle will travel over the following seven months.
In addition to scientific observation, the findings of which UAESA will be sharing to scientific institutions around the world, the Hope Mars Mission also has a political and nationalistic objective, being part of the year-long celebration of the founding of the UAE, which is turning 50 years old in December 2021. The locally-built Hope probe is promoted as an inspiration to young Emiratis to pursue careers in tech and space, and its estimated arrival at Mars on February 2021 is a key to the anniversary.
Thus far, Mission Control for Hope in the bin Rashid Space Center confirmed that the orbiter is on its way, solar panels fully deployed on its way to the fourth planet of the Solar System. But the true test of the probe’s construction and programming will be early next year, when it must perform an autonomous thruster burn to slow itself down into Martian orbit. If successful then Hope’s two spectrometers and imager will commence its examination of Mars’s thin atmosphere, to determine its climate and seasonal patterns. The travel time for the probe to coincide with the UAE founding anniversary slated its launch during summer of this year, when Earth and Mars orbits put them close to one another.
Aside from the Emirati Hope Mission, other probes scheduled to launch for Mars in the immediate future include an orbiter-lander probe from China and the Perseverance rover from NASA, scheduled to launch in July 23.
Image from Al Jazeera