Al Amal: The Power of Hope

Hope Probe is the UAE's first mission to Mars, and the country aims to use it to transform global science, the nation's space sector, and its economy
Hope Probe is the UAE's first mission to Mars, and the country aims to use it to transform global science, the nation's space sector, and its economy

Mars has long been the subject of human interest. Early telescopic observations revealed color changes on the surface that were attributed to seasonal vegetation and apparent linear features were ascribed to intelligent design. The answer, of course, lies in the fact that the two planets are remarkably similar, yet distinctly different in important ways. Quite simply, studying Mars can teach us much about the Earth

By Rhonita Patnaik

Published: Mon 20 Jul 2020, 11:30 AM

Last updated: Mon 20 Jul 2020, 1:42 PM

The first UAE mission to Mars begins today. Countries such as the US, Russia and India have already sent their mission to Mars and this year China would also see a touchdown on the Red Planet. What makes the mission special is that it's the first from the Arab World and also the most-budget friendly mission until now. But the UAE has bigger plans: The country wants to establish 'the first inhabitable human settlement' on Mars by 2117. Part of that plan is its Mars Science City, a collection of laboratories that will investigate the planet, as well as food and energy challenges there and here.
Space is never easy. A lot can go wrong. But UAE had success launching the KhalifaSat from Japan, and it was on the same kind of rocket - so, that's a good start.
Its Earth observation satellites have done well, so there is a good chance that Hope will successfully enter its Martian orbit and 'wake up' for its mission next February.
We give you a run-down on this milestone mission:
Mars mission 'Al-Amal'
Hope Probe is the UAE's first mission to Mars, and the country aims to use it to transform global science, the nation's space sector, and its economy. Here's what you need to know about the mission.
The Hope Mars Mission, also called the Emirates Mars Mission, is the first unmanned, interplanetary satellite spearheaded by the United Arab Emirates. The Hope Probe will be the first probe to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere and its layers when it reaches the Red Planet's orbit in 2021. It will help answer key questions about the global Martian atmosphere and the loss of hydrogen and oxygen gases into space over the span of one Martian year.
As with other Mars missions this year, run by China and the US - Tianwen-1 and Mars 2020, respectively - the UAE's mission launches today and begins operations on Mars by February 2021.
The probe's name is 'Al-Amal' - Arabic for 'hope'.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler Dubai, said the government chose the name from "thousands of suggestions [.] as it sends a message of optimism to millions of young Arabs".
"Arab civilization once played a great role in contributing to human knowledge and will play that role again," Sheikh Mohammed said.

Instruments on the Hope Probe

The Hope probe features three instruments: Emirates eXploration Imager (EXI), Emirates Mars InfraRed Spectrometer (EMIRS), and Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EMUS).
EXI: Will study the lower atmosphere of Mars and capture high-resolution images. It will measure the optical depth of water ice in the atmosphere and analyse the Martian ozone
EMIRS: Will study the Martian lower atmosphere and provide visuals. It will measure the global distribution of dust, ice clouds, water vapor, and temperature
EMUS: Will measure the levels and variability of carbon monoxide and oxygen in the Martian thermosphere. It will also measure relative changes in the thermosphere

The launch site
The Hope Probe will be launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. The same site was used for the KhalifaSat in 2018. A Japanese H-IIA rocket will carry the probe into space. Two stages of a Japanese H-IIA rocket in preparation for the Emirates Mars Mission Hope Probe.

When will it arrive?
The plan is for Hope Probe to enter into its Martian orbit by February 2021 to coincide with the UAE's 50th anniversary celebrations.

What's special about Hope's orbit?
Hope will have an elliptical orbit ranging from about 20,000 kilometers at its lowest to 43,000 kilometers at its highest point. Scientists have designed the orbit to allow them to explore the planet's 'diurnal,' or day-to-night cycle. And that's what has never been done before.
Why launch now?
Every 18 to 24 months, Earth and Mars align in such a way that the journey - or trajectory - is effectively shortened from a nine-month to a seven-month trip. Failing to begin the trip during this 'launch window' would mean the mission would need to wait another two years. But that wouldn't fit with the UAE's 50th anniversary celebrations, so Hope has got to go now. The launch window for EMM opens on July 15, 2020 and closes on August 3, 2020. Miss that and it's impossible to reach Mars. The entire mission would then need to be delayed until September 2022.
On the launch day, the Hope Probe will take-off on a Mitsubishi H-IIA rocket toward the east, on a trajectory that takes it over the Pacific Ocean.
As the rocket accelerates away from the Earth, the solid rocket boosters are expended, followed by jettisoning the fairing once it is no longer needed to protect the Hope Probe from the Earth's atmosphere.
Once the first stage is completed, the rocket is jettisoned and put into the Earth's orbit. It stays in the Earth's orbit until the exact alignment with Mars is achieved after which it is reignited to push it on a trajectory towards Mars.

First for the UAE
Hope Probe is the UAE's first interplanetary mission. The operation aims to provide the global scientific community with novel data. The probe will fly around Mars in a way that's never been done before.  
The mission was announced in 2014 following a feasibility study in 2013 - a mere seven years from concept to launch. UAE's space sector is young and small but it has a successful track record. It has been vibrant in Earth observation for about a decade. In 2006, the national space agency, run by the MBRSC, started a knowledge transfer programme with South Korea. That collaboration has produced a clutch of Earth observation satellites, including DubaiSat-1 and DubaiSat-2, which launched in 2009 and 2013. They were followed by a nanosatellite called Nayif-1 in 2017.
In 2018, the MBRSC launched its first '100% UAE-designed and manufactured' remote-sensing satellite, KhalifaSat. The MRBSC also has an astronaut programme. Hazzaa AlMansoori became the first Emirati in space when he flew to the International Space Station (ISS) on a scientific mission in 2019.
The MBRSC is responsible for the execution and supervision of all stages of the design, development and launch of the Hope Probe. The UAE Space Agency is funding and supervising procedures and necessary details for the implementation of this project.

International collaboration

The UAE is keen on international collaboration, but it says it wants to build a community of Emirati scientists and engineers. The MBRSC has struck partnerships with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder; the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley; and the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. It has also collaborated with the University College London, which has produced a "value analysis" report on the UAE's use of space to transform its future.
UAE's Hope Probe vs NASA's Maven Mission
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft went into orbit around Mars in 2014 to study the structure and composition of the planet's upper atmosphere. Specifically, the loss of its oxygen and hydrogen because of the solar wind.
Now, the UAE's Hope Probe's aim is to fill in a gap in MAVEN's findings by looking at the dynamics closer to the ground that influence the rate of leaking.
"You need to understand the role that Mars plays in the loss of its atmosphere," Sarah bint Yousif Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and Science Lead of the Emirates Mars Mission, said.
When a planet-wide dust storm raged on Mars in the summer of 2018, MAVEN observed that the amount of hydrogen in the upper atmosphere rose. The three instruments on Hope - an infrared spectrometer, an ultraviolet spectrometer and a camera - would be able to help explain how the dust pushed the hydrogen upward.
In addition, from its high-altitude perch - an elliptical orbit that varies from 12,400 miles to 27,000 miles above the surface - Hope will give scientists a global view of Martian weather, noting changes in temperature and other conditions during the course of a day.
"That's one of the fundamental new measurements we haven't seen before," said Bruce M. Jakosky, professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado who is MAVEN's principal investigator and a member of the science team for the Emirati mission.
Previous orbiters have generally swooped much closer to the Martian surface, usually in orbits devised to pass over a given location at the same time of day each time. That was more useful for detecting slow changes on the surface rather than in the air.
Hope will spend at least two years in orbit, monitoring a full cycle of Martian seasons.

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