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30-day countdown to UAE's historic Mars mission begins

Sahim Salim/Dubai
Filed on June 16, 2020 | Last updated on June 16, 2020 at 06.31 am
mission mars, hope probe, dubai, UAE, Sheikh Mohammed

The 495,000,000km journey will begin at 00:51:27 UAE time on July 15 from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre.

The UAE's historic Mars mission is just a month away. In 30 days, the Hope Probe will start its journey to the Red Planet to study its atmosphere.

On Monday, the Dubai Media Office tweeted a video to mark the 30-day countdown to the launch date.

The 495,000,000km journey will begin at 00:51:27 UAE time (05:51:27, Japan time) on July 15 from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre. The scheduled launch date represents the opening of the launch window for the Emirates Mars Mission, which extends to August 13, 2020.

The probe is expected to reach the Red Planet in the first quarter of 2021, which will mark the golden jubilee of the emirates' union in 1971.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, had vowed to "gift the world with a wealth of space-related knowledge and expertise". He said the Mars mission is a testament of the capabilities of the country's youth. It sends a message of hope to the youth in the Arab world, he added.

"Our country is famous around the world for path-breaking achievements that have made history," Sheikh Mohammed said earlier. "The Hope Probe project carries the hopes and ambitions of the Emirati nation and the aspirations of the Arab and Islamic people for a brighter future. We seek to send a message of peace and hope to the world, and envision a glorious future in which knowledge and scientific expertise are freely shared between nations."

Hope for the Arab world

Last week, Omran Sharaf, the mission's project manager, said that apart from the ambitious scientific goals, the mission was designed to hark back to the region's golden age of cultural and scientific achievements.

"The UAE wanted to send a strong message to the Arab youth and to remind them of the past, that we used to be generators of knowledge," AFP quoted him as saying.

"People of different backgrounds and religion coexisted and shared a similar identity," he said of the Arab world. "Put your differences aside, focus on building the region, you have a rich history and you can do much more."

Mission objectives

Sarah bint Yousif Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and the mission's deputy project manager, said it was imperative that the project have a long-term scientific impact. "It is not a short-lived mission, but rather one that continues throughout the years and produces valuable scientific findings - be it by researchers in the UAE or globally," she told AFP.

She said that the probe will provide a comprehensive image of the weather dynamics in Mars' atmosphere with the use of three scientific instruments.

The first is an infra-red spectrometer to measure the planet's lower atmosphere and analyse the temperature structure. The second, a high-resolution imager that will provide information about the ozone; and a third, an ultraviolet spectrometer to measure oxygen and hydrogen levels from a distance of up to 43,000km from the surface.

The three tools will allow researchers to observe the Red Planet "at all times of the day and observe all of Mars during those different times", Al Amiri said.

"Something we want to better understand, and that's important for planetary dynamics overall, is the reasons for the loss of the atmosphere and if the weather system on Mars actually has an impact on loss of hydrogen and oxygen," she said, referring to the two components that make up water.

Where is the probe now?

Since its successful arrival in Japan, the Hope Probe has undergone detailed processing operations for the launch. This process was completed in over 50 working days and entailed filling the fuel tank with about 700kg of hydrogen fuel and ensuring there are no leaks. The process also required testing the communication and control devices, moving the probe to the launch pad, installing the probe on the rocket that will carry it to space, and ensuring the probe batteries are fully charged.

The probe was transferred from Dubai to the launch site on Tanegashima Island in Japan in a massive 83-hour mission.

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