Update: The Hope Probe will launch on Friday, July 17, at 12:43am UAE time from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center after weather conditions caused a delay to the mission.
As part of the first Arab interplanetary mission, the UAE‘s Hope Probe, or Al Amal in Arabic, will soon begin its journey to Mars. Launching from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center at exactly at 00:51:27am UAE time, the probe will sit aboard a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ H-IIA rocket, an expendable launch system weighing between 285,000 to 445,000 kilograms.
Marking a special moment in Emirati history, the date for the expedition was chosen on account of a preferential “launch window,” during which Earth and Mars are closest together. Viewers who would like to tune in for the launch can watch it here.
Set to detach from the launch rocket about one hour after takeoff, the following 24 hours will be crucial for the Hope Probe. Speaking to AFP earlier this month, Sarah al-Amiri, the mission’s deputy manager said “in my heart of hearts, I’m looking forward to the initial 24 hours after separation, and that’s where we see the results of our work.” “It is when we first get the signal, when we know that every part of the spacecraft is functioning, when the solar panels are deployed, when we hit our trajectory and are headed towards Mars,” she explained.
With a 495-million kilometer journey ahead, the Hope Probe is expected to reach Mars’ orbit by February 2021. Upon touch down, the Probe will loop around the planet for one Martian year or two Earth years. While the original time frame is set at two years, there is a possibility of extending operations until 2025. With the objective of studying Mars’ atmosphere, the Hope Probe will help scientists understand key components of the planet’s makeup. In particular, its loss of hydrogen. Speculated to be the reason behind Mars’ transition from a thick atmosphere capable of sustaining water to an inhospitable climate that sprouts dryness and aridity, the Hope Probe intends to shed light on the planet’s weather system, monitoring weather changes throughout the day and across all seasons.
Built by a team of 150 Emirati engineers, in collaboration with three American universities; the University of Colorado, the University of California Berkeley, and Arizona State University, the Hope Probe is a testament to Emirati innovation and global collaboration. In a bid to demonstrate leadership, build Emirati capabilities in the field of interplanetary exploration, and inspire future Arab generations, the mission will establish the UAE’s position as a leader in space research.