To the people of the UAE, to the Arab and Muslim nations, we announce the successful arrival to Mars orbit. Praise be to God,” said Omran Sharaf, the mission’s project manager.

It’s a historic moment for the United Arab Emirates as its ‘Hope’ spacecraft successfully entered the red planet’s orbit. With this, the UAE has become the first Arab nation to reach Mars and the fifth nation in the world to do so. Officials at mission control broke into applause after the probe entered orbit, visibly relieved after a tense half-hour as the probe carried out a “burn” to slow itself enough to be pulled in by Martian gravity, in what was the most perilous stage of the journey. The Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) is the first interplanetary mission of the UAE. Its success has made it the second nation to reach Mars in its first attempt, only after India.

UAE Hope mission

This mission is being led by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) under Omran Sharaf’s management. The probe operating for this mission was named Hope because the mission is “sending a message of optimism to millions of young Arabs,” encouraging them towards innovation. This project was signed in a joint agreement between the United Arab Emirates Space Agency (UAESA) and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) to achieve and accomplish this objective. Indeed the mission was fully funded by the UAESA, who will supervise the process in full, whereas the MBRSC was given the responsibility of the design and manufacture.

Objectives of the mission

The uncrewed robotic probe (both its instruments and orbit) has the main objective to map a comprehensive picture of Mars’s atmosphere: the first proper weather satellite orbiting around Mars. The probe’s main scientific aim was decided with the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (a forum led by NASA), which identifies the main knowledge gaps that current or past Mars missions have not yet tackled. As such, Hope is set on a broad and distant course around the planet, which will allow it to study seasonal cycles, as well as the weather at different heights and geographic areas to help it build a general impression of Mars’s daily climate.

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The different steps to reach this understanding will first be through the characterization of Mars’s lower atmosphere – its climate dynamics and global weather. Then, Hope will attempt to explain how the weather influences hydrogen and oxygen’s escape by correlating its previous observations of the lower atmosphere with those of the upper atmosphere. Finally, the probe will attempt to identify why hydrogen and oxygen’s loss into space occurs. A further application of the probe will help us better understand our own planet. Indeed, the collected data of Mars’s atmosphere will be used to apply it to a model of Earth’s atmosphere’s evolution over the past millions of years.

UAE Creates History, Becomes The Second Nation To Reach Mars In Its First Attempt. 1

Significance of Hope

As such, these immense preparations and considerable efforts on the part of the UAE and the world will be unfolding in the next few months as the probe explores the planet. Hope is an opportunity for the Arab world to once again, as it did in the past, contribute to human knowledge all while striving to the highest peaks of one’s nations and a considerable and crucial investment in the United Arab Emirates economy and human capital.

China and the United States

Two more nations are arriving at Mars this month: China with its Tianwen-1 mission and the United States with the Mars 2020 mission, carrying the Perseverance rover and the Mars Helicopter Ingenuity.

China’s Tianwen-1 will carry an orbiter, a lander, and a rover. This is the second time the Asian country is going to Mars after an unsuccessful mission in 2011. Tianwen-1 will find evidence of current and past life on Mars, produce Martian surface maps, and characterize Martian water ice distribution. If successful, China will become the second country to successfully land on Mars, only after the United States.

UAE Creates History, Becomes The Second Nation To Reach Mars In Its First Attempt. 2
Illustration of Perseverance rover’s touchdown (Image: NASA/JPL)

NASA’s Mars 2020 mission will reach on February 18. The rover will land in the Jezero crater and search for microbial life on the red planet. It will also collect and store Martian soil samples and produce oxygen from the planet’s atmosphere. The highlight of the mission is the Mars Helicopter Ingenuity. For the first time, a battery-powered instrument will attempt to fly on Mars. Engineers have designed the helicopter to fly for 90 seconds at once in the planet’s thin and dusty atmosphere. Its success would pave the way for future aerial missions on Mars.

Also watch: 10 of the most exciting space missions in 2021

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