Credits: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

On 19th July, as a part of Emirates Mars Mission, UAE launched its first orbiter. Christened ‘Hope’ (al-Amal in Arabic), this orbiter is destined to reach Mars’ orbit by February 2021.The seven month journey marks Arab’s first interplanetary space mission. The launch had taken place in Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan aboard a HII-A rocket powered by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd .

H-IIA F42 flight proceeded nominally. Approximately 56 minutes 57 seconds after launch, as planned, the payload separated from the launch vehicle. Previously, two other instances of launch were cancelled due to unsuitable weather conditions. The rush for the launch is due to rare occurrence wherein Mars and Earth are closest to each other while in orbit. UAE is among three missions targeting that launch window to get into Martian orbit. China’s Tianwen-1 and America’s Mars 2020 are the other two projects apart from UAE to race for Mars currently.

The space project was announced by Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan in July 2014 with an aim of utilizing capabilities of Emirati engineers to study Martian atmosphere and weather patterns in detail. The primary objective of this mission is to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere and the losses of Hydrogen and Oxygen gasses to space over a time period of one year equivalent on Mars (687 Earth days) – which causes a drastic climate change in the planet.

UAE’s Muhammed Bin Rashid Space Center is the key player and the brains behind Hope.  Oman Sharaf, project manager of ‘Hope’ said, “It sends a very strong message to the Arab youth that if the UAE is able to reach Mars in less than 50 years, they could do much more.”

Mars has been a tricky place to get into. There have been numerous martian missions, but nearly 60% of them have failed to enter their designated orbits, or failed to land on the martian surface. The only country to have ever succeeded in reaching Mars at its very first attempt, was India, when the country’s Mars Orbiter Mission was successfully inserted into orbit in September 2014.

UAE has steadily been ramping up its space capabilities, specially in the past decade or so. The country currently has 9 working satellites deployed to space and plans to do many more in coming years. It also sent the first Emirati to the International Space Station for a mission recently.