First Arab space mission to Mars launches from Japan

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jul 20 2020 07:19 AM

First Arab space mission to Mars launches from Japan 1
A picture taken on July 19, 2020, shows a screen broadcasting the launch of the "Hope" Mars probe at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai. The probe is one of three racing to the Red Planet, with Chinese and US rockets also taking advantage of the Earth and Mars being unusually close: a mere hop of 55 million kilometres (34 million miles). "Hope" -- Al-Amal in Arabic -- is expected to start orbiting Mars by February 2021, marking the 50th anniversary of the unification of the UAE. Giuseppe Cacace, Agence France-Presse

TOKYO — The first Arab space mission to Mars blasted off Monday aboard a rocket from Japan, after weather delays set back the launch of the probe dubbed "Hope."

A live feed of the launch showed the rocket carrying the unmanned probe, known as "Al-Amal" in Arabic, lifting off from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.

"We have launched the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 42 (H-IIA F42) carrying aboard the Emirates Mars Mission's (EMM) HOPE spacecraft... at 6:58:14 (JST) (2158GMT)," rocket manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said in a statement shortly after the launch.

Five minutes after launch, the rocket carrying the probe was on course, carrying out the first separation of its flight.

The Emirati project is one of three racing to Mars, including Tianwen-1 from China and Mars 2020 from the United States, taking advantage of a period when the Earth and Mars are nearest.

In October, Mars will be a comparatively short 38.6 million miles from Earth, according to NASA.

"Hope" is expected to reach Mars's orbit by February 2021, marking the 50th anniversary of the unification of the UAE, an alliance of seven emirates. 

First Arab space mission to Mars launches from Japan 2
A picture taken on July 19, 2020 shows Dubai's Burj Khalifa lit up in support of the United Arab Emirates "Hope" Mars probe, ahead of it's expected launch from Japan. Agence France-Presse

Once there, it will loop the planet for a whole Martian year, or 687 days.

While the objective of the Mars mission is to provide a comprehensive image of the weather dynamics in the Red Planet's atmosphere, the probe is a foundation for a much bigger goal -- building a human settlement on Mars within the next 100 years.

The UAE also wants the project to serve as a source of inspiration for Arab youth, in a region too often wracked by sectarian conflicts and economic crises.

Several dozen probes -- most of them American -- have set off for the Red Planet since the 1960s. Many never made it that far, or failed to land.


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