The Marsorbiter Hope was successfully launched yesterday. A first for the United Arab Emirates.

The Hope Probe was launched yesterday from the Japanese island of Tanegashima using a Japanese H-IIA missile. About an hour and a half later, the probe expanded its solar panels and was officially en route to Mars. And with that, the launch went according to the book.

The Hope Probe is expected to arrive at Mars in February 2021. Once there, the probe will orbit the red planet and investigate the Martian atmosphere.

For example, the probe will use the Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EMUS for short) to investigate the interaction between the upper and lower layers of the atmosphere. It is hoped that it will provide more insight into how atmospheric gases exactly escape from that atmosphere. Knowing that may also help us better understand how Mars has transformed from a warm and wet planet with a thick atmosphere to a cold and dry planet with a thin atmosphere.

More instruments can be found on board the Arabian Marsorbiter, including a camera. With this Emirates eXploration Imager (EXI for short), very sharp photos can be taken and it is hoped, among other things, to get a better picture of the water, ice and dust that can be found in the atmosphere of Mars.

It is the first time that the United Arab Emirates has undertaken a mission to Mars. In fact, it is their very first interplanetary mission. Past experience in space travel has been limited to the construction and launch of two satellites designed to study Earth. The probe also goes into the books as the very first Arabian Mars probe. And with that, the United Arab Emirates has quite a few firsts.

China and US
The Arabs are also the first to use the excellent conditions this year to undertake a mission to Mars (see box). Within a few weeks , the Chinese and Americans will also send a probe to Mars .

It is no coincidence that three missions to Mars will be launched in a few weeks. It has everything to do with the position of Mars with respect to Earth. Mars is a little further away from the sun and has an almost twice longer orbital period than our planet. It means that the distance between Earth and Mars varies: one moment the Earth moves away from Mars, the next it approaches. Once every two years, the distance between the two celestial bodies is the smallest and is the ideal time to undertake a mission to Mars. After all, spacecraft can reach the red planet relatively quickly – and with relatively little fuel.

The Chinese Huoxing 1 mission (consisting of an orbiter, lander and rover) is expected to launch later this week. NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance likely departs the following week.

UAE Mars mission: Hope project a 'real step forward for exploration'
UAE Mars mission: Hope project a ‘real step forward for exploration’

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