Sheikh Mohammed announces Hope probe's Mars arrival date, exact time

Staff Report/Dubai
Filed on November 8, 2020

(Hope Mars Mission/Twitter)

'The probe has travelled 290 million kilometres so far'

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced the exact arrival date and time of the country's Hope probe.

Taking to Twitter on Sunday, Sheikh Mohammed said that the probe launched 111 days ago will reach Mars on February 9, 2021 at 7.42pm.

He added that the probe has travelled 290 million kilometres so far, with the operations team making another change to its course.

“The probe will reach Mars on February 9, 2021 at 7:42 PM, and it will be a great day (Eid) for us, and all Arabs,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted.

The Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), the first interplanetary mission undertaken by an Arab nation, today announced the successful completion of TCM3 – its third and last major trajectory correction maneuver.

Mars Hope’s arrival and Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI) will mean the UAE will become the fifth nation to reach the Red planet.

With 189 million kilometers remaining, the Hope Probe has already covered 60 percent of its journey, equivalent to 290 million kilometers in 111 days since its launch on July 20.

His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said: "The Hope Probe mission is the culmination of a 50-year journey, which began in 1971. It also marks the beginning of another 50 years that will bring about major achievements based in the fields of science, knowledge and innovation. Our nation does not have the word impossible in its dictionary and our leadership will not settle for anything less than the first place."

Since the Hope Probe’s successful launch from Japan’s Tanegashima Centre on July 20, the team has spent more than 15,000 working hours monitoring its path to Mars.

Having already completed the launch and early operations phases, the probe is currently in the third of six stages of its journey. It has completed 60 per cent of its journey.

The early orbit phase began at the end of the launch phase and lasted about 45 days. During this time, the probe was monitored 24 hours a day by the operation and spacecraft teams.

Cruise phase

The probe is currently in its cruise phase. During this time, the operations team at the ground station at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai periodically monitors the state of the probe. It is in contact with the spacecraft two to three times a week, to check the subsystems health, calibrate the interments, and understand its performance.

This phase also includes monitoring the probe’s flight path by conducting a series of trajectory correction manoeuvres (TCMs). The project team conducted two successful manoeuvres previously, in addition to a more recent one, which is the third in the probe’s trip to Mars. Currently the team is back to the 24-hour contact schedule to prepare for the next phase.

First image of the Red Planet

Following the cruise phase, the probe will enter the mission orbit insertion (MOI) phase. At this time, the team will focus on safely entering a capture orbit around Mars. This process requires slowing down the probe, and nearly 50 per cent of the fuel will be used to do so.

The transition to science phase begins at the end of MOI and will last until the observatory is in an acceptable science orbit and the commissioning is complete. The spacecraft’s capture orbit will take it as close as 1,000km above Mars’ surface.

This is the period where the first image of Mars will be taken and transmitted back to the Mission Operation Centre (MOC).

The probe will remain in scientific orbit for a full Martian year (687 Earth days) and continue to take pictures of Mars and send them to the Earth station.

Right trajectory

Omran Sharaf, EMM Project Director, said the Hope probe is currently on the right trajectory towards its orbit. He indicated that the team had planned to implement seven TCMs during the probe’s 493-million km journey to Mars. However, due the effectiveness of the launch, the completion of the probe’s early operations, and the successful TCMs, it is now closer to its final path.

“The accuracy of our trajectory during the cruise, confirmed by TCM3, has enabled us to now plan new scientific observations in our final approach to Mars. We will be using the EMUS spectrograph to make early observations of Mars’ outer hydrogen halo as well as adding new data to interplanetary hydrogen modelling. We will also use the star trackers on board to perform measurements of interplanetary dust as we cruise towards MOI.”

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