Hope Probe: Two years on, reliving the UAE’s milestone mission and 'beyond Mars'

It has accomplished and exceeded all goals, releasing total data of 688.5 gigabytes so far



by

Nandini Sircar

Published: Wed 20 Jul 2022, 7:56 PM

Last updated: Wed 20 Jul 2022, 10:17 PM

It's been two years since the Arab world's first interplanetary mission blasted off from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre to space at 1:58 am (UAE time) on July 20, 2020.

For many Emiratis, the mission launch is summed up in the name of the craft – Al-Amal – the Arabic word for Hope.

Over the years, the mission has not only performed nominally across all areas but has exceeded its anticipated performance and freeing up valuable resources to perform additional observations while releasing a total data of 688.5 gigabytes so far.

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

For Emirati scientists and leaders, the mission represented a new chapter with the UAE striving to diversify into a more knowledge-based economy.

Its highest profile enterprise in that sphere has been the EMM or the Mars orbiter launched 730 days ago.

Not one to rest on its laurels, the UAE is now looking to cruise “beyond Mars” with the Lunar project and other missions.

The UAE’s mission to the moon is on track for launch in November.

The National space fund

On July17, the President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, announced the launch of the National Space Fund, a Dh3 billion ($817 million) fund to support the space sector, on twitter.

The President tweeted: “The establishment of a dedicated fund to support the UAE’s burgeoning space programme and the launch of a new initiative to develop radar satellites are expected to expand our growing capabilities in this vital sector while accelerating innovation in environmental sustainability.”

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, also emphasized on Twitter that the fund aims to support the establishment of national companies in the space sector and boost national strategic and research projects.

Analog Mission

Another pivotal mission came to an end when Astronaut Saleh AlAmeri recently emerged after completing his eight-month-long isolation mission as part of the first UAE Analog Astronaut mission at the NEK ground-based analogue facility in Moscow, Russia.

Analog missions are vital in preparing humans for future exploration of Mars and other planets. By simulating space-like conditions here on Earth, analog missions play a significant role in spaceflight research.

Hope Probe – where it all started

Two attempts to launch the probe had been called off due to adverse weather before it finally took off on a cruising distance of 493.5 million kilometers and a mission duration of one Martian year (about two Earth years).

The probe completed the historic journey reaching the Martian orbit on February 9, 2021.

“It was an indescribable feeling,” Sarah bint Yousif Al Amiri, chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency and Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology, had said after the launch on 20 July, 2020.

“This is the future of the UAE.”

The successful launch of Hope Probe is the first step towards the UAE's ambitious goal of setting up a city on the Red Planet by 2117.

The Hope Probe's orbit, which is between 20,000 and 43,000km with a 25-degree incline towards Mars, gives it the unique ability to complete one orbit around the planet every 55 hours, capturing comprehensive data every nine days.

The Probe weighs around 1,350 KG, approximately the weight of a small SUV. It was designed and developed by engineers at Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), in cooperation with academic partners.

The Hope Probe is studying the current state of Mars’ atmosphere and weather and the reason for the escape of hydrogen and oxygen from its upper atmosphere. In addition, it is studying the relation between the higher and lower atmospheres of Mars and various other phenomena like dust storms, weather variations, and atmosphere dynamics.

Milestones

Earlier this month the EMM shared the fourth tranche of Hope Probe's scientific data with the international community.

The latest released data include new observations from the Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EMUS) to provide better coverage of the aurora.

This data released included information, images and insights collected by the state-of-the-art scientific equipment carried by the spacecraft between December 2021 and February 2022.

Eng Omran Sharaf, project director of Emirates Mars Mission, had said: “We will continue to identify ways in which we can enrich our discoveries and observations to deliver above and beyond our mission, to further enhance the international community's knowledge and understanding of the Red Planet, and to bolster the UAE's position in the global space domain.”

It’s said over 1.7 terabytes of this data has been downloaded, with the first, second and third batches of data receiving considerable interest from scientists, researchers, experts, and astronomy enthusiasts worldwide.

Hessa Al Matroushi, Emirates Mars Mission Science Lead, opined, “The latest insights on Mars and its atmosphere reaffirm that there is much to discover, and we are looking forward to seeing the mission's objectives of providing useful scientific data, enhancing national capabilities, and fostering global collaboration come to fruition with every new data collected.”

In April 2022, The Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) shared the third tranche of Hope Probe’s scientific data with the international community. The first two batches of scientific data were published in October 2021 and January 2022, respectively.

Unprecedented scientific observations

The Hope Probe has made several key new observations of Martian atmospheric phenomena, including the elusive discrete aurora on Mars’ nightside, remarkable concentrations of oxygen and carbon monoxide and never-before seen images of Martian dust storms as they billow across the planetary surface.

Sinuous discrete aurora on Mars

In April 2022, Hope Probe captured stunning images of a mysterious Martian aurora that the world had never seen before. It appeared as a huge ‘worm-like’ aurora that extended halfway around the Red Planet.

Huge dust storms

On 5 January 2022, the EXI camera system onboard the EMM mission obtained the half-illuminated view of Mars — the sun was just setting near the center of the disk. When the images were taken, the Hope spacecraft was at an altitude of about 40,500 kilometers above the surface.

Images of the fully illuminated hemisphere

On 15 September 2021, the EXI camera system onboard the EMM mission obtained a set of multispectral images of the fully illuminated hemisphere of Mars. The season was early winter in the southern hemisphere.

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Cloudy day on Mars

The Probe captured an image on 16 March 2021 of particular interest to the scientific community. The image scale covered the heavily cratered region known as “Arabia Terra”.

Foggy craters

On 15 March 2021, the EXI camera captured multispectral images of this oblique view of the “Arabia Terra”. The image was taken in early spring in Mars’ northern hemisphere.

The Hope Probe is scheduled to continue its scientific mission to explore Mars until the middle of 2023, with the possibility of extending it for an additional Martian year (two Earth years).


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