The United Arab Emirates Hope mission, its $200 million project to send a satellite into orbit around Mars, has been a success. It means that the UAE is the fifth body to reach Mars, after the US, Russia, the European Union and India.
Hope was launched last July from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan, carried on the back of a Mitsubishi H-2A rocket. It has taken seven months to reach its destination, arriving shortly ahead of rival missions from both China and the US.
Its job is to orbit around the red planet and monitor its atmosphere, with the ultimate aim of truly understanding the Martian weather. That will involve studying the global weather cycle, examining the formation of dust storms and understanding why Mars is leaking hydrogen and oxygen.
Much like the NASA’s “seven minutes of terror,” the Hope probe’s journey to Mars was not without its stresses. Earlier this year, officials said that the probe needed to burn a significant amount of fuel to decelerate to the right speed, a process that would take up to half an hour. The risks were twofold: Slow down too much, and its orbit would decay, sending the probe crashing into the surface of the planet. Go too fast, however, and the probe would overshoot altogether.
The odds of the missions success were pegged at around 50 percent, but getting this far has already been enough of a success. Last year Minister of Advanced Sciences, Sarah Al Amiri, said that space exploration is “the future of the UAE” as it looks to reinvent itself. The country, which is one of the world’s largest oil producers, is looking to remake its economy as a science and innovation hub as the world shifts away from fossil fuels. The nation is expecting to put a lander onto the Moon by 2024 as part of this push, with an emphasis on using local scientists and local engineers to build the probe.