Enlarge /. Spectators see a screen on which the launch of the Mars probe "Hope" will be broadcast on Sunday in the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center in Dubai.
GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP via Getty Images
On Sunday, a rocket built in Japan launched a 1.35-ton probe sponsored by the United Arab Emirates into orbit. The spacecraft is now on its way to Mars, where it is scheduled to enter orbit around the Red Planet in February 2021.
The "Mars Hope" mission is a partnership between the Arab country, designed to inspire a future generation of scientists and engineers, and several academic institutions in the United States, including the University of Colorado Boulder. The program was administered in the United Arab Emirates and the spaceship was built in a laboratory in Colorado.
"This is a major step forward for the UAE's ambitious space program," said Ahmad bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi, chairman of the UAE Space Agency, after the launch. "The mission is a catalyst that has already helped significantly accelerate the development of the UAE's space, education, science and technology sectors."
The orbiter will bring three scientific instruments to Mars to study the Martian atmosphere. During a press conference prior to launch on Sunday, Sarah Bint Youssef Al-Amiri, the mission's deputy director, said the goal was to better understand the weather systems on Mars. The probe will focus on day-to-night transitions and understand how far oxygen and hydrogen extend from the planet's thin atmosphere into space.
Indeed, the scientific data collected by the Hope mission should help close some gaps in scientific knowledge about Mars if the probe successfully enters orbit around Mars. However, it is clear that the UAE has sponsored the $ 200 million mission as a source of inspiration for the country's younger people.
"We want to send a message to the youth," said Omran Sharaf, the project manager. ""It's about the future of our economy, inspiring the younger generation to deal with science, technology, engineering and medicine. "The country has already seen a shift from university focus such as finance to science," he said.
Enlarge /. The probe is the size of a small SUV.
UAE Space Agency
The United Arab Emirates, a small nation on the Arabian Peninsula bordering Oman and Saudi Arabia, has set a six-year period to design, develop and launch the mission. Sharaf said the only way to complete the investigation on time and on budget is to work with international partners who have facilities to build such a spacecraft.
And now the country is on the way to Mars. So far, only Russia, the United States, the European Union and India have successfully put a spacecraft into orbit around Mars. Overall, about half of the missions to Mars orbit or to the surface of the planet failed. Sharaf recognizes this challenge. "It & # 39;It's more about the trip and the impact, "he said." Reaching Mars is definitely one of the goals, but failing to get there would not mean that the mission failed. "