United Arab Emirates’ Mars probe successfully launched and phones home

‘Hope’ mission is first interplanetary effort from Arab world, aims to sniff Martian atmosphere

The United Arab Emirates has successfully launched a Mars probe.

The Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) aims to orbit the red planet with a probe named “Hope” that will gather data to help humanity build a proper Martian weather map, characterise the planet’s lower atmosphere and offer an explanation of why Mars is losing Hydrogen and Oxygen into space.

Early on Monday, Hope was launched atop from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center atop a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA rocket.

The mission appears to be in fine shape, as just a few hours after launch the probe was beaming back a signal.

Now comes the seven-month schlep to the Red Planet. On arrival Hope will conduct a 30-minute burn to slow itself from over 121,000 km/h to approximately 18,000 km/h. At the latter speed, Mars’ gravity should be sufficient to see the probe enter an orbit with a perigee that sometimes falls beneath 1,000km. Further operations will aim to settle the craft into its planned orbit for doing science, with a perigee and apogee of between 20,000km and 43,000km.

From that orbit Hope will use its infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers, plus a 4:3 visible-spectrum imager packing a 12-megapixel 12-bit monochrome CMOS array, to gather data on Mars’ atmosphere. The probe will contact Earth twice a week for sessions lasting between six and eight hours. Mission scientists expect around one terabyte of data to flow during those connection windows and have planned for the probe to operate for two years.

Hope’s scientific payload is modest compared to NASA’s MAVEN or India’s Mangalyaan, but the mission is significant as it is the first interplanetary effort mounted by an Arab nation. As such it is the source of considerable pride. ®

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