The UAE successfully launches ‘Hope’ mission to Mars

The “Hope” probe launches aboard a Japanese H-IIA rocket from LP-1 at Tanegashima. Source: Mitsibushi Heavy Industries

JULY 20, 2020–In a first for the Arab world, the United Arab Emirates has launched its ‘Hope’ probe, as part of the Emirates Mars Mission, to Mars aboard a Japanese H-2A rocket from Japan’s Tanegashima LP-1 pad. The launch occurred yesterday, at 21:58 UTC

The ‘Hope’ probe, or Al-Amal in Arabic, is a Mars orbiter designed and manufactured by University of Colorado Boulder and funded by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, based in the United Arab Emirates. Its mission was announced in 2014, with the goal of placing an Emirati probe in Mars orbit by 2021.

If all goes well, that goal will be reached, with the probe now destined to arrive at Mars in February of 2021, after yesterday’s launch in cooperation with Mitsibushi Heavy Industries, operator of the H-IIA rocket.

The Hope probe is a mission of international cooperation, being U.S.-built, U.A.E.-funded, and Japan-launched. It has three main objectives:

  1. Study daily and seasonal weather cycles and weather events such as dust storms, along with climate types and locations.
  2. Attempt to answer the question of why the Martian atmosphere is losing hydrogen and oxygen into space.
  3. Find the reason behind the drastic climate change of Mars.

In sum, the Hope probe will be the “first true weather satellite” at Mars, according to its mission team.

When announcing the mission in 2014, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the U.A.E., Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, said to the public that “

The mission will send three important messages.  The first is for the world: that Arab civilization once played a great role in contributing to human knowledge and will play that role again.”

“The second is to our Arab brethren: that nothing is impossible and that we can compete with the greatest of nations in the race for knowledge.  The third is for those who strive to reach the highest of peaks: set no limits to your ambitions and you can even reach space.”

The importance of the first Arab Mars mission was not lost on the planners of the Emirates Mars Mission. On the name Hope, Sheikh Mohammed stated, “It sends a message of optimism to millions of young Arabs.”

The probe’s arrival in February of 2021 is also timed in order to arrive at Mars before the 50th anniversary of the independence of the U.A.E, on December 2, 1971. The 2020 IAC, if not cancelled to COVID-19, should also take place in Dubai, three months after launch.

The Hope mission is one of three Mars missions scheduled to launch in the 2020 “Mars Season”, a one-month launch window for probes to fly to Mars. The second will be the three-part Chinese Tiawen-1 Mars orbiter, lander, and rover combination, on July 23. Third will be the Mars 2020 ‘Perseverance’ rover, flying July 30.

These launch windows, or periods where the energy to fly to Mars is drastically lower, only come every 26 months. And if something goes wrong, there’s no going back for a long time.

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