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‘New chapter in Arab history’: UAE Mars probe reaches Red Planet

The United Arab Emirates’ first mission to Mars has reached the Red Planet and entered orbit after a seven-month and 494-million-kilometre journey.

Key points:

  • To enter Mars’ orbit, the probe needed to burn around half its 800 kilograms of onboard fuel
  • The attempt had a 50 per cent chance of failing, Dubai’s ruler had said
  • The Emirates Mars Mission launched the Hope Probe from a Japanese space centre

The mission will allow the UAE to start studying and sending back data about the Martian atmosphere and climate.

The Mars program is part of the UAE’s efforts to develop its scientific and technological capabilities and reduce its reliance on oil.

The UAE Space Agency, the fifth globally to reach the planet, even has a plan for a Mars settlement by 2117.

“Contact with #HopeProbe has been established again. The Mars Orbit Insertion is now complete,” said the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, where the ruler of Dubai and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi were present to receive the news.

The attempt had a 50 per cent chance of failing, Dubai’s ruler and UAE Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum had said.

An attendee poses as he arrives to an event to mark Hope Probe's entering the orbit of Mars, in Dubai,

This year marks 50 years since independence from Britain and the founding of the UAE federation.(Reuters: Christopher Pike)

To enter Mars’ orbit, the probe needed to burn around half its 800 kilograms of onboard fuel to slow down enough not to overshoot, the most dangerous part of the journey.

“Today is the start of a new chapter in Arab history … of trust in our capability to compete with other nations and people,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted after the probe entered orbit.

“The UAE will celebrate its Golden Jubilee with science, culture and inspiration because we aim to build a model of development.”

This year marks 50 years since independence from Britain and the founding of the UAE federation, which groups seven emirates, including Dubai.

Mars probes launched by China and NASA just after the UAE’s lift-off in July are also set to reach the planet this month.

Martian atmosphere

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The Emirates Mars Mission which has cost around $US200 million ($258 million) launched the Hope Probe from a Japanese space centre.

It aims to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere for the first time, studying daily and seasonal changes.

Minister of State for Advanced Technology and chair of the UAE Space Agency Sarah al-Amiri said it would take a few weeks to start collecting a mixture of data and images, which could be made publicly available as early as September.

“It’s an endeavour in developing capabilities and talent in the country, it is something that has never been done before in terms of utilising a planetary exploration mission to do this,” she said.

Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Sciences, speaks during an event to mark Hope Probe's.

Sarah al-Amiri said data and images from the Mars probe could be made publicly available as early as September.(Reuters: Christopher Pike)

The UAE first announced plans for the mission in 2014 and launched a National Space Program in 2017 to develop local expertise.

Its population of 9.4 million, most of whom are foreign workers, lacks the scientific and industrial base of the big spacefaring nations.

Hazza al-Mansouri became the first Emirati in space in 2019 when he flew to the International Space Station.

To develop and build the Hope Probe, Emiratis and Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) worked with US educational institutions.

Reuters

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