UAE’s Mars mission: What you need to know about it


The UAE has already set a record for the region last year when the first Emirati launched to space.

The UAE’s mission to Mars is going to “bring hope to Arabs”, especially with the ongoing challenges and conflict in the region, a top UAE Space Agency official has said.

This is the first time an Arab country is reaching for deep space, a phrase which describes the space beyond Earth’s and its moon’s atmosphere. And UAE’s Hope spacecraft, in particular, will travel more than 60 million kilometres in seven months to reach the Martian orbit.

The UAE has already set a record for the region last year when the first Emirati launched to space, making him the first Arab to reach the International Space Station. This July, the country will launch Hope from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre, with an aim that it reaches the Martian atmosphere in 2021 to coincide with UAE’s 50th anniversary.

“Just thinking about the name of the spacecraft – Hope, it carries an essence of the mission,” the head of space projects at the UAE Space Agency, Abdulla Al Marar, told Khaleej Times. “It gives a message to the youth, especially the Arab youth, that despite all the challenges and conflicts in the region, the Arabs still have hope that they have something to give to humanity. They can contribute a lot of knowledge.”

A total of 150 Emirati engineers, researchers and scientists from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) are working on the Hope probe across three different universities in the United States.

The UAE Space Agency is overseeing the Emirates Mars Mission and is funding it. The last piece of Hope’s outer body structure has been touring the UAE, as leaders have been signing it.

It’ll soon go back to the US for final assembly before it is brought to the UAE and then shipped to Japan in July.

Even though the spacecraft has mainly been developed in the US, more than 80 parts of the probe have been built in the UAE, Al Marar revealed.

“The benefit of this mission is that it is happening here for the first time,” he said.

“It’s benefitting the engineers. They are learning about the difficulties involved in deep space missions and these ones are five times more difficult than normal missions.”

UAE’s ambitious mission to Mars comes at a crucial time for the global space industry, with many Mars and moon missions taking place.

Nasa will be launching its Mars 2020 rover and by 2024, the US space agency wants to land two astronauts on the lunar South Pole.

The UAE’s decision to send an orbiter to the Martian atmosphere stems from a scientific objective it hopes to achieve – figure out what went wrong with Mars and prevent it from happening to Earth.

“The Hope probe will study the correlation between the upper and lower atmosphere. The scientific mission is to study how the atmosphere faded away. Once upon a time, the Martian atmosphere was very similar to Earth’s,” Al Marar said. “The mission also touches upon what we are experiencing as climate change on Planet Earth – the idea is to understand how that happened on Mars and ensure that doesn’t happen on Earth.

“Mars resembles the planet Earth very much. Going to the moon is not about forgetting about Mars. Some space agencies are using the moon as a stepping stone to reaching Mars. Even if other agencies are planning to go to the moon, it’s a gateway to reach Mars.”

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