The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has launched a spacecraft to Mars, making it the first Arab country to do so. The unmanned probe – called the Emirates Mars Mission or Hope – launched from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center at 6:58 a.m. local time and has now begun a seven-month journey to the red planet. Hope will spend at least two years in orbit around Mars with a possible further two-year extension.
Estimated to cost around $200m, Hope will orbit Mars between 20,000 and 43,000 km from the surface. From there it will investigate the Martian atmosphere, studying daily and seasonal changes in the climate as well as analysing hydrogen and oxygen in Mars’ atmosphere and why the gasses are being lost into space. The mission carries three main instruments: two spectrometers – one operating in the infra-red and the other in ultraviolet – and an imager that will study the lower atmosphere at visible and ultraviolet wavelengths.
A UAE-led Mars mission was first mooted in 2014 with the aim of arriving at Mars in 2021 – timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the UAE’s independence from the UK.