20200720 hope probe uae
People watch a big screen displaying the launch of the Hope Probe from Tanegashima Island in Japan, at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Around three months from now, Amal (UAE’s Hope Probe), the first Arab interplanetary mission to Mars, is expected to reach the Red Planet’s orbit on February 9, 2021 at 7.42pm (UAE time) His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced on Sunday.

“We will celebrate the arrival of the first Arab mission to Mars,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted.

Launched from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre in the early hours of July 20, Hope Probe has so far travelled 290 million km and has completed its last trajectory correction manoeuvre (TCM). It is currently cruising at an average speed of 103,379km per hour and has already covered more than half of its seven-month, 480-million km journey to the Red Planet.

With Hope Probe’s arrival, the UAE will become the only fifth country/entity in the world to place a spacecraft in orbit around Mars – after the United States, former Soviet Union, European Space Agency and India. Its arrival also coincides with the celebration of UAE’s golden jubilee, marking a new exciting phase in the country’s scientific achievement and technological development.

“Hope Probe mission is the culmination of a 50-year journey, which began in 1971,” noted Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, adding: “Hope Probe also marks the beginning of another 50 years that will bring about major achievements based in the fields of science, knowledge and innovation. Our nation does not have the word impossible in its dictionary and our leadership will not settle for anything less than the first place.”

Sheikh Mohammed said: “Even before reaching its orbit, the Emirates Mars Mission’ (EMM) Hope Probe has succeeded in instilling a new culture in the hearts and minds of this nation’s men and women – a culture that prioritises science in shaping our future and reiterates our nation’s limitless ambitions after successfully entering space. We have become the first Arab country to succeed in exploring a planet, and our nation joins an exclusive group of only seven countries that have explored Mars.”

Sheikh Mohammed underlined that the UAE’s arrival at Mars will be a historic achievement – one that places great responsibility on future generations to continue the march of progress.

He also praised EMM’s team effort and said: “I want to thank you for your efforts, perseverance, determination and dedication in prioritizing the success of this project despite the unusual circumstances the world is going through. You are achieving this mission with success that far exceeds expectations. We will celebrate together – by God’s will - on February 9, when the Hope Probe reaches its orbit."

Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Technology, Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency and EMM Science Lead, said: “Hope Probe is successfully continuing its historic, thanks to the team’s meticulous planning and hard work. The team has received limitless support from the country's wise leadership, in accordance with its vision and instructions to strengthen the nation’s space sector. Hope Probe opens new scientific horizons and turns the UAE into a knowledge-exporting country instead of an importer of knowledge, sharing with the world for the first time, unprecedented data captured by the Probe.

“The eyes of the nation will be on Hope Probe on February 9, 2021, noted MBRSC chairman Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, adding: “Space missions are a gateway to scientific progress across multiple sectors and are an opportunity to build our very own scientific knowledge hub. They are also an important pillar in our march towards a sustainable future. Additionally, the success of this mission is a testament to the UAE’s role in promoting scientific progress for the benefit of humanity.”

Mars orbit insertion

Last month, Emirates Mars Mission project manager Omran Sharaf assured Hope Probe is on course for its Mars orbit insertion (MOI), despite few days delay during the launch. MOI is the most challenging part of the mission, explained Sharaf, adding: “Accuracy is the key to success.”

“If Hope Probe goes too fast or too slow, it will crash on Mars or miss its orbit entirely. As it approaches Mars’ orbit, Hope Probe will do a 30-minute fuel burn using its thrusters and reduce its speed from 121,000kph to 18,000kph,” he added.

Science phase

After entering Mars’ orbit, Hope Probe will then transition to Science phase. This is when it will commence with its mission to build the first complete structure of the Martian atmosphere using its three advanced scientific instruments that will take pictures of the Red Planet's atmosphere for one Martian year or around two Earth years.

How to track Hope Probe?

Space enthusiasts and the general public can follow Hope Probe’s journey in real time by visiting the EMM website.