Dubai: Despite re-scheduling the launch of Hope Probe from July 15 to 17, the lift-off of the first Arab interplanetary mission may still change, the lead of the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) cautioned.
“Safety comes first,” Omran Sharaf, EMM Hope Probe project manager, told reporters via a Zoom conference on Tuesday, a day before the original launch date.
Prior to the Press briefing, the UAE Space Agency and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), in collaboration with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (the manufacturer of the rocket of that will bring Hope Probe to space), announced the new launch has been reset on Friday (July 17) at 12:43am (UAE time)
“The two-day delay came after the launch team in Japan and the control room team in Dubai held a meeting with the team in charge of the launch site at Japan’s Tanegashima island where the mission was given a ‘no-go’ following a weather evaluation,” an EMM statement said.
“The probe was scheduled to launch on July 15, 2020 at 12:51am from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre (TNSC), but storm clouds rolled in around the launch pad ahead of the scheduled liftoff,” it added.
According to reports, heavy rain has fallen for more than a week in large areas of Japan, triggering mudslides and floods and killing several people, most of them on the southern main island of Kyushu. Tanegashima is part of a cluster of islands south of Kyushu.
Based on a weather forecast by Japan Meteorological Agency, heavy rainstorms are expected to continue in southern and central Japan.
The amount of rainfall, however, will be light to moderate with overcast skies hovering above Tanegashima Island, where TNSC is located.
Responding to a query by Gulf News if this weather condition is good enough for the launch, Sharaf said “it is very difficult to answer the question.”
He cautioned: “There are other factors that we need to consider and not just rain. We also have to check the wind and cloud density as well as the amount of precipitation.”
“Sometimes it’s not windy but cloud density is too high, it will affect the rocket
Yesterday (Monday) morning everything seemed fine but this (Tuesday) morning, the weather condition totally changed. It is difficult to say what is the situation but we are closely monitoring it,” he underlined.
“There is a chance for another delay,” added Sharaf, explaining even though Tanegashima Island has not been heavily affected by incessant rains as compared to other parts of Japan, the rocket that will carry Hope Probe can still be affected by other weather conditions.
EMM also noted other missions to Mars have been previously delayed.
“The delay of Mars space missions is commonly caused by unsuitable weather conditions and technical issues. NASA had earlier postponed the launch of its Mars Perseverance rover three times. The mission was initially scheduled to launch on July 17 before it was delayed to July 20 and again to July 22 due to rising technical issues,” EMM noted.
“In March 2020, the European Space Agency and its Russian counterpart Roscosmos Space Corporation decided to postpone the launch of the ExoMars mission to study the Red Planet due to multiple technical issues,” it added.
Within launch window
Sharaf, however, reiterated there is still enough time to launch Hope Probe within the so-called launch window, which is until August 3, 2020.
The launch window is the period when Earth and Mars are closest to each other. Hope Probe must be launched within this time to take advantage of the shortest period and least amount of energy needed to reach Mars orbit.
Witnesses to history unfolding
Several families have postponed their viewing parties at home but said they will definitely stay up late on Thursday night until the early hours of Friday.
“My family and I had been looking forward to staying up late tonight (Tuesday) to watch the launch live but when I woke up to the news of the postponement of the launch date, I was a little sad but understood that the decision has been taken by experts,” nine-year old Mir Faraz told Gulf News
“I’m reminded of the proverb: Patience is a virtue. So, I just have wait for just two more days before I can witness UAE’s Hope Probe start it’s seven-month long journey to the Red Planet,” he said.
His sister, Mishal Faraz, 13, added: “I was also a little disappointed but quickly understood that it was taken for the best reason. I’m thinking positive and I’m looking forward to read more news and trivia about the Hope Probe. At our home, it will be a family viewing on Friday.”
Young Emirati inventor Abdullah Al Hammadi, 17, who has developed a motion-sensitive wheelchair that can move by swaying the head, added: “In spite of the fact that the launch of Amal (Hope Probe in Arabic) has been rescheduled, I am beyond any doubt that the rescheduling has been done to guarantee that the mission is effective and there’s no compromise on safety.”
“Hope Probe is a symbol of hope and a beacon of inspiration for the Arab youth. First announced in 2014, Hope Probe proves that despite being a young nation, the UAE can achieve scientific breakthrough by prioritising an ambitious agenda in science, engineering and technology,” he added.