UAE Is the Fifth to Make it to Mars Successfully

The United Arab Emirates added a new historic achievement as it has become the fifth country to enter the orbit of the red planet. The United Arab Emirates Space Agency (UAESA) comes fifth after four space agencies have successfully made it to Mars: NASA, the former Soviet Union space program, the European Space Agency, and the Indian Space Research Organization.

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The Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) "Hope Probe" is the first Arab interplanetary mission. It will be the first probe to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere and its layers when it reaches the red planet’s orbit in 2021. It will help answer key questions about the global Martian atmosphere and the loss of hydrogen and oxygen gases into space over the span of one Martian year.

Objectives of the mission include:

  • Understanding climate dynamics and the global weather map through characterizing the lower atmosphere of Mars.02
  • Explaining how the weather changes the escape of Hydrogen and Oxygen through correlating the lower atmosphere conditions with the upper atmosphere.03
  • Understanding the structure and variability of Hydrogen and Oxygen in the upper atmosphere, as well as identifying why Mars is losing them into space.

Tuesday marked the most critical phase in the mission. "Mars orbit insertion was the most critical and dangerous part of our journey to Mars, exposing the Hope probe to stresses and pressures it has never before faced," said Omran Sharaf, the Hope mission's project director at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre."With this enormous milestone achieved, we are now preparing to transition to our science orbit and commence science data gathering."

Hope had been approaching Mars at over 120,000km/h (relative to the Sun) and needed to execute a precise 27-minute burn on its braking engines to scrub some of that speed or risk skipping off into ever deeper space. The manoeuvre, performed by six thrusters on the probe, commenced at about 19:30 GST (15:30 GMT), with confirmation received at Earth some 11 minutes later - the delay being the time it took for radio signals to traverse the 190-million-km separation between Mars and Earth.

EMM began its journey to Mars from the Tanegashima island in Japan on July 20, 2020 at 1:58 AM (UAE time). The mission had a 30-day launch window between July 14 and August 12, 2020. On the launch day, the Hope Probe lifted off on a Mitsubishi H-IIA rocket toward the east, on a trajectory that took it over the Pacific Ocean.

During the first stage, the solid rocket boosters were expended, as the rocket accelerated away from the Earth. This was followed by jettisoning the fairing as it no longer needed to protect the Hope Probe from the Earth’s atmosphere.

In the second stage, the rocket jettisoned and put the Hope Probe into the Earth’s orbit. It stayed in orbit until the exact alignment with Mars after which it was reignited to push it on its trajectory towards the Red Planet. Following this, with the right direction and velocity of 11km/s, the upper stage gently deployed the Hope Probe.

“As a young nation, it is a particular point of pride that we are now in a position to make a tangible contribution to humanity’s understanding of Mars,” Sarah Al Amiri, UAE minister of state for advanced technology and chair of the UAE space agency, said in a statement. “This also marks an important point for the Emirates to continue the drive to diversify its economy utilising science and technology.”

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