Mars mission: UAE ‘Hope’ probe to reach orbit of Mars tomorrow

UAE Mars: Animation shows seven month journey

The UAE launched the Arab world’s first Mars mission, The Hope, last year, and the spacecraft is set to reach the orbit of Red Planet on February 9 after a 200-day journey. Hope, known as Al-Amal in Arabic, will reach the orbit of the Red Planet 3.42pm GMT (7.42pm UAE time) on February 9. If the mission is a success, the UAE will become just the fifth international organisation to reach the Red Planet, after the US, India, the Soviet Union and the European Space Agency (ESA).

However, Hope will not land on the Red Planet. Instead, it will remain in orbit around Mars for one Martian year, or 687 days on Earth.

The main purpose of the machine is to provide a comprehensive and detailed image of the Red Planet’s weather dynamics.

Data will not reach Earth until September of this year, however.

Emirates officials have said the Hope Mission now faces its “most critical and complex” manoeuvre as it attempts to lock into orbit around Mars.

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At the moment, the spacecraft is travelling towards Mars at a staggering 121,000 kilometres per hour.

However, in a process which will use almost half of the fuel, it must reduce that speed to around 18,000 kilometres per hour, by firing all six of its Delta-V thrusters for 27 minutes.

The process will begin roughly 40 minutes before the probe reaches orbit, although the difficulty comes in the fact that it will take the signals 11 minutes to reach scientists on Earth.

Nonetheless, the UAE mission’s project manager Omran Sharaf has described being in charge of the daring feat as a “huge honour”.

He said: “It is humbling to be in such auspicious and skilled company as we all embark on our missions.

“It was never a race for us. We approach space as a collaborative and inclusive effort.”

February is a major month for missions reaching Mars.

Shortly after the UAE’s probe, China’s Tianwen-1 will enter the Martian atmosphere.

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Tianwen-1 will orbit the Red Planet for several months before it attempts to land.

If it is successful, China will become just the third agency to land something on Mars, after NASA and the European Space Agency.

NASA will also get another rover to Mars this February – the Perseverance Rover – after its launch in 2020, which will roam the Red Planet looking for signs of life – both past and present.

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