Historic Launch to the Red Planet
An artist’s impression of the United Arab Emirates’ Hope spacecraft. CREDIT: Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center

Historic Launch to the Red Planet

13/07/2020Written by Malika Andress

Scheduled to launch on 16 July the Hope, or Al-Amal, Mission will be the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) first-ever interplanetary endeavour.

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Scheduled to launch on 16 July the Hope, or Al-Amal, Mission will be the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) first-ever interplanetary endeavour.
Hope Mars Mission logo

The Hope spacecraft was built by the UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, in partnership with the University of Colorado Boulder, Arizona State University and the University of California Berkeley.

This mission will achieve many milestones; it is the first planetary science mission led by an Arab-Islamic nation, and According to the Hope Mars Mission team, the probe will be the “first true weather satellite” at Mars. And it will arrive at Mars in February 2021 which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the United Arab Emirates’ formation.

What will it do?

What will it do?
The completed Hope spacecraft. CREDIT: Emirates Mars Mission

Our planet is surrounded by a fleet of planetary observation satellites monitoring weather patterns, atmospheric behaviour and other aspects the surface of our planet. However, until now, while some satellites such as the European Space Agency’s trace gas orbiter have studies aspects of Mars’ tenuous atmosphere, the Hope mission will be dedicated to giving scientists a true picture of the Red Planet’s atmospheric phenomena. By studying daily and seasonal weather cycles, weather events in the lower atmosphere such as dust storms, and how the weather varies in different regions of Mars, it will attempt to answer the scientific questions of why Martian atmosphere is losing hydrogen and oxygen into space and the reason behind Martian drastic climate changes.

To achieve the scientific objectives of the mission, the Hope probe will be equipped with three scientific instruments:

  • Emirates eXploration Imager (EXI) is a multi-band camera capable of taking high resolution images with a spatial resolution of better than 8 km. EXI measures properties of water, ice, dust, aerosols and the abundance of ozone in Mars’ atmosphere. The instrument is being developed at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder, in collaboration with the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) at Dubai, UAE.
  • Emirates Mars Infrared Spectrometer (EMIRS) is an interferometric thermal infrared spectrometer developed by the Arizona State University (ASU) and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). It examines temperature profiles, ice, water vapour and dust in the atmosphere and will provide a view of the lower and middle atmosphere.
  • Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EMUS) is a far-ultraviolet imaging spectrograph that measures emissions in the spectral range 100–170 nm to measure global characteristics and variability of the thermosphere, and hydrogen and oxygen coronae. Design and development is led by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Where is it launching from?

Where is it launching from?

The probe is set and ready to launch from its launch site in Japan. The onset of the global pandemic did initially mean that many of the checks for the probe had to be scrubbed, as the team wanted to ensure everything was safe in Japan for the launch date.

All critical checks were completed before the orbiter left Dubai for Japan and the engineers have all quarantined for 14 days, to ensure there is no chance of any contamination of COVID-19.

On 20 April 2020, the Hope spacecraft left the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai to begin the four-day journey to Tanegashima. Packaged inside a climate-controlled shipping container, the spacecraft rode a Russian-operated, Ukrainian-built Antonov An-124 cargo plane from Dubai to Nagoya, Japan. Then it was transferred to a ship, which carried the probe from Nagoya to Tanegashima Island on 24 April 2020. Six members of the Emirates Mars Mission team accompanied the spacecraft to Japan.

The spacecraft will be launched from Japan using a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA launcher and is set to arrive at Mars in February 2021. The mission has a brief launch window starting on 14 July 2020. If the launch opportunity is missed, then the mission will have to wait two years for the next window

Can I watch the launch live?

Can I watch the launch live?

The launch from Tanegashima, Japan is scheduled for 21:43 BST 16 July 2020. The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre will carry a livestream of the launch from Japan, which you can watch it on the Emirates Mars Mission website (please note that launch times may vary)