The spacecraft, which launched from Japan, is the first Mars mission originating from the UAE, and the country is extremely excited to get its foot in the space exploration door. This morning, Al Amal, or the Hope Probe, took off from Japan at 6:58 am Monday 20th July (local time), and is now headed towards Mars.
The Hope probe is expected to make some significant new discoveries while at Mars.
The probe's telecom system was set up and it transmitted its first signal after it successfully separated from the launch vehicle and its solar panels were deployed with clockwork precision an hour after the launch, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Launch Services, which is the launch operator, confirmed. Interplanetary missions are no joke; in any and all conditions, are an expensive, time-consuming affair that requires a lot of planning.
"It's like a three-way race to Mars this year and the UAE is headed to be the first country to reach Mars before USA and China", Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, was quoted as saying by the Gulf News.
The UAE has previously launched three observation satellites but had not gone beyond Earth's orbit. He spent over a week at the International Space Station last fall.
Hope will study the upper atmosphere of Mars as well as monitor climate change on the Red Planet over a period of two years.
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The Emiratis involved in the program also acknowledged it represented a step forward for the Arab world, the home of mathematicians and scientists for centuries before the wars and chaos that have gripped wide swathes of it in recent times.
The National Space Programme, which was launched in 2017, has plans to establish settlements on the planet by 2117.
The Amal spacecraft, along with its launch, cost $200 million, according to Omran Sharaf, the UAE project manager. "Now we have the case of the UAE, a country that's moving forward with its plans, looking at the future and the future of region also". NASA's Curiosity rover has been exploring Mars since 2012.
Mission Hope took off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan at around 4:00 am IST and the probe successfully detached from the rocket after 30 minutes.
It will not land on the surface of the planet, but remain in orbit above it. After a handful of delays, the mission was pushed back from its original July launch window to no earlier than the very end of the month.
This launch will be followed in the coming days by two other Mars missions by the U.S. and China, while Japan has planned a Martian moon mission for 2024. Japan has its own Martian moon mission planned in 2024.