Emirates becomes Mars explorer with Hope probe

The United Arab Emirates has become the fifth nation to reach Mars after its Hope Probe reached the Red Planet’s capture orbit yesterday, February 9, 2021.

Hope Probe
Hope Probe (Image: UAE Space Agency)

Hope reached Mars after a seven-month journey of over 493.5 million-kilometres following its launch from the Tanegashima, Japan.

Mars 2020 mission gears up for a red planet return

The probe fired its six Delta-V thrusters for 27 minutes to decelerate from its cruising speed of 121,000km/h to 18,000km/h to achieve Mars Orbital Insertion (MOI). It will maintain this capture orbit, calibrating and testing its science instruments, before moving to its science orbit. Hope will then provide the first planet-wide picture of Mars’ weather system and climate throughout the Martian year.

“MOI 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, EMM Project Director at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. “While we have spent six years designing, testing and retesting the system, there is no way to fully simulate the impacts of the deceleration and navigation required to achieve MOI autonomously. With this enormous milestone achieved, we are now preparing to transition to our science orbit and commence science data gathering.”

Hessa Al Matroushi, Science Lead for the mission at the UAE’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, added: The science of the mission is enabled by a unique highly elliptical orbit that Hope will adopt when it starts its two-year science mission. The orbit offers an unprecedented local and seasonal time coverage of the Martian atmosphere.”

In the next two months, Hope will perform instrumentation and system tests and move from its capture orbit of between 1,000 and 49,380 km from Mars to its science orbit.

From Hope’s elliptical science orbit, the spacecraft can explore changes in the Martian climate between the upper and lower atmosphere, across the entire surface of the planet, at all times of day, and through all the seasons of the year. It will orbit every 55 hours and capture a full Martian image every nine days.

Her Excellency Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology and Chair of the UAE Space Agency, said: “Hope reaches Mars at a profound double anniversary: 2021 marks both the 50th anniversary of the Emirates and 50 years since the first man-made object landed on the Red Planet. 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. This also marks an important point for the Emirates to continue the drive to diversify its economy utilising science and technology.”

The first set of scientific data will be released in September and made available to scientists globally. The first scientific results and findings by the EMM science team will be released in early December.