The Arab Hope space probe has been successfully launched to Mars

The Hope space probe blasting off atop an H-IIA rocket (Image courtesy MHI / JAXA)
The Hope space probe blasting off atop an H-IIA rocket (Image courtesy MHI / JAXA)

A few hours ago the Arab space probe Hope, or Al Amal, was launched atop an H-IIA rocket from the Tanegashima space center in Japan. About an hour after the launch, Hope regularly separated from the rocket’s last stage and went on the route that is scheduled to take it to the planet Mars’ orbit in February 2021. The communication of the solar panel deployment had a few minutes of delay, and that caused concern at the mission control center at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, but in the end, everything went well.

The Hope mission, formally the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), is run by the United Arab Emirates space agency, but in fact, it’s an international collaboration that involved European and above all American partners in the design and construction of the space probe and its instruments.

Actually, Hope is a fairly simple spacecraft, to the point that it was compared to a weather satellite. The comparison is also because this mission has the main purpose of studying the Martian atmosphere, with its seasonal cycles and local weather events. This also means studying the continuous loss of atmosphere in space. It’s therefore a mission similar to that of NASA’s MAVEN space probe, which entered the red planet’s orbit on September 22, 2014. However, MAVEN had a launch mass almost as twice as Hope’s, with almost 2,500 kg against approximately 1,350 kg.

To carry out its measurements, the Hope space probe is equipped with two spectrometers: Emirates Mars Infrared Spectrometer (EMIRS) and Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EMUS). The third instrument onboard is the Emirates eXploration Imager (EXI) camera.

This scientific mission is an important step for the Emirates to demonstrate the value of its space agency. The team is made up for the vast majority of people under 35 who consequently represent the future of the Emirates. Many women are included, something we take for granted when talking about other space agencies but that represents a big step forward in an Arab agency.

The meaning of the Hope mission goes beyond the possibility of working with agencies such as NASA and ESA because there’s also the will to inspire young Arabs to follow careers in scientific and technological fields. The climate studies of Mars should be parallel with those of the Earth to better face the future challenges of climate change.

The Hope spacecraft is now on its journey to the planet Mars. Its arrival is scheduled for February 2021 with the critical moment of the maneuver that is scheduled to bring it into the red planet’s orbit. At that point, it will be possible to see if the first Arab mission in deep space is a success.

The Hope space probe being prepared (Photo courtesy Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre)
The Hope space probe being prepared (Photo courtesy Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre)

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