The Hope probe, or Al-Amal, in Arabic, of the United Arab Emirates was launched this weekend to Mars, around which it is planned to orbit in February 2021 to study the planet’s atmosphere.
Hope was launched on Sunday 19 July at 9.58 p.m. GMT (Monday at 6.58 a.m., Japanese time) by a Japanese H-2A launcher from the Tanegashima Space base on the island of the same name. This launch took place 55 years after the first flight over Mars by a man-made craft, the American Mariner 4 probe (14 and 15 July 1965), which sent the first photos of the heavenly body taken from space.
The probe is set to achieve its objective in 2021, the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the United Arab Emirates Federal State, after a seven-month journey. It will be placed in an elliptical orbit of 44,000 km at its apogee and 22,000 km at its perigee.
Below, is a recording of the official live feed from the launch (take-off at 55:00)
HOPE: STUDYING THE ATMOSPHERE OF MARS
2.9 metres high, with a 2.7-metre diameter, this 1,500-kilo orbiter was developed by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai, in partnership with the Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) of the University of Colorado, in Boulder, USA.
The Hope orbiter will study the planet’s atmosphere and its meteorological phenomena (dust storms, temperature changes etc.) over a Martian year (687 Earth days), to better understand how Mars, formerly warm and wet, has become a cold, dry planet. To do so, it will especially study the relationships between the upper and lower layers of the atmosphere.
A DUO FOR MARS: HOPE AND MAVEN
Hope is equipped with three main scientific instruments: a high-resolution camera, an ultraviolet spectrometer to measure traces of oxygen and hydrogen, and an infrared spectrometer to measure the temperature, the amount of water vapour, observe dust etc.. Its mission will complement that of the American NASA probe, Maven, in orbit around Mars since 2014, which is studying the high atmosphere and the ionosphere. The two probes share the same scientific directorate, the LASP laboratory at the University of Boulder.
This Mars mission is a new step into space for the United Arab Emirates: in September 2019, the Emirates’ Hazza al-Mansouri went to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule.
Mars Hope is the first of three missions to Mars, which will be launched this summer with the Chinese Tianwen-1 (an orbiter and a rover) between 20 and 25 July, and the American Mars 2020 with its Perseverance rover, which will be launched from 30 July.
The launch of the European Exomars 2020 mission, also planned for this summer, has been postponed until 2022.