Hope, the first interplanetary mission of the Arab world, blasted off from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre on July 20.
The UAE’s Hope probe has crossed the 100-million-km milestone as it cruises towards the Red Planet. This means that the probe has covered a fifth of its 493-million-km journey within a month after it was launched.
“In less than 170 days, we will celebrate the probe’s entry into the Red Planet’s orbit. It will be a path-breaking achievement in the history of global Mars missions,” said His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
He took to Twitter on Monday to share images of three planets – Mars, Saturn and Jupiter – as captured by the probe’s ‘Star Tracker’. “Mars, as demonstrated in the image captured by the probe’s Star Tracker, is ahead of us, leaving Saturn and Jupiter behind,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted. “The Hope probe is expected to arrive to Mars in February 2021.”
He noted that the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) will create “a giant leap” in the country’s space technologies and open new horizons towards other space missions.
“The next phase requires investments in science for the benefit of mankind. We need young people to lead us towards further scientific breakthroughs.”
All clear for success
Hope, the first interplanetary mission of the Arab world, blasted off from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre on July 20. And since then, it has been on an “outstandingly accurate trajectory”, according to the EMM.
It fired its thrusters for the first time last week, directly targeting its Mars capture orbit and crossing a major milestone in its seven-month journey. The spacecraft successfully completed TCM1 – its first trajectory correction manoeuvre (TCM), a crucial process in keeping it on the right direction towards Mars.
The probe will perform a number of further trajectory control manoeuvres to reach its scheduled Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI).
Currently travelling at a speed ranging between 110,400km/h to 122,400km/h, the probe has covered 20 per cent of its journey – equivalent to 130 trips from the Earth to the Moon.
The probe will automatically reduce its speed to 18,000km/h as it gets closer to Mars.
It will provide the first truly global picture of the Martian atmosphere. With the help of its instruments, it will provide answers to long-standing questions about the Red Planet as it will be the first to study the Martian climate throughout daily and seasonal cycles. It will observe the weather phenomena such as the massive famous dust storms that have been known to engulf the planet, as compared to the short and localised dust storms on earth.
The probe will examine the interaction between the upper and lower layers of the Martian atmosphere and causes of the planet’s surface corrosion. It will also study why Mars is losing its upper atmosphere.
The EMM team, which includes 200 Emirati engineers and specialists, had built the orbiter in six years, at half the duration and cost of conventional missions.
A team of Emirati experts are tracking the Mars orbiter’s journey at the ground station of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center located at Al Khawaneej. The team is supervising the probe’s control operations, and receiving signals and data from the probe.
Once it enters the Red Planet’s orbit, the probe will send back more than 1,000 gigabytes of new Mars data to be shared with over 200 research centres for free.
The mission’s wider objective involves inspiring youth across the world to pursue science-based fields and spark their interest in technology, space engineering and advanced sciences.
So far, the mission has attracted 60,000 students to join its diverse educational programmes, developed 200 new technologies and helped publish 51 research papers and build 66 parts of the probe in the UAE.
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