At 3:57 p.m. (UK time) on Tuesday, the United Arab Emirates became the fifth nation to reach Mars, with its space probe successfully inserting into Martian orbit, CNN announced.
The probe, named Hope in English, which is translated as Amal in Arabic, completed a complicated manoeuvre to enter into orbit after a seven month flight in which it covered more than 493 million kilometres following its launch from Tanegashima in Japan.
A tweet from the Emirates Mars Mission Twitter account noted at 11:16 a.m. ET, “Success! Contact with #HopeProbe has been established again. The Mars Orbit Insertion is now complete.”
A live coverage of Hope’s arrival on February 9 was shared on the mission’s website by UAE Space Agency at 10 a.m. ET.
Hope is the first in Arab world to get to Mars and the fifth space agency to get there overall after the United States, Russia, the European Space Agency, and India.
The EMM is the first of three space missions due to reach Mars this month, and is being rapidly tailed by China’s Tianwen-1 orbiter and lander, and NASA’s Perseverance rover.
Firing its six delta-v thrusters for 27 minutes to slow it from a cruising speed of 121,000 km/h to just 18,000 km/h, the Hope spacecraft was able to move into what is called its “capture orbit” where it will remain until its scientific instruments have been calibrated and it can descend to its science orbit.
The £160m satellite aims to provide a picture of the Martian atmosphere and study daily and seasonal changes on the planet, as well advancing the UAE’s science and technology sector, enabling it to move away from its economic reliance on oil.
The spacecraft itself was designed and assembled by researchers at three American universities – the University of Colorado Boulder, Arizona State University, and the University of California, Berkeley.
Emirati Space Agency, said, “Using three scientific instruments on board of the spacecraft, EMM will provide a set of measurements fundamental to an improved understanding of circulation and weather in the Martian lower and middle atmosphere.
“Combining such data with the monitoring of the upper layers of the atmosphere, EMM measurements will reveal the mechanisms behind the upward transport of energy and particles, and the subsequent escape of atmospheric particles from the gravity of Mars.”
Emirati engineers with an average age of 27 worked on the Hope Probe, with women making up 34% of that team, and 80% of the science team comprised of women. One of the goals of the mission is to help build a knowledge-based economy for the UAE, leading to more investment in STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics for young Emiratis.
Deputy Project Manager for the mission, Sarah Al-Amiri, disclosed that, “One of our mission objectives was to stimulate a lot of students and an entire society within STEM and we’ve seen a large shift with the mindset of students, first and foremost, within the Emirates.
“But we’ve also seen a lot of keen engagement within the region, a region that is typically known to be unstable, and that has triggered a lot of thoughts with regards to what is possible.”