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Destination Mars: the UAE's Hope Probe prepares for launch

Euronews   -   Copyright  Credit: Dubai Tourism
By Evan Bourke
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Final checks on the UAE's Hope Probe are being carried out before its launch to orbit Mars.

If the weather is suitable the probe will lift off from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan at 00:51:27 UAE time on Wednesday July 15th 2020.

Transporting the Hope Probe to the Tanegashima Space Centre from Dubai was no easy feat. The probe was held in a unique container that created a stable environment where temperature and humidity were measured and controlled. Travelling in a completely dust-free environment, clean, dry air was used to keep the probe's instruments in perfect condition for the launch.

The container's unusually large size, as well as COVID-19 health and safety precautions added to the complexity of the journey.

"Transporting people, transporting our engineers and our technical team in a safe manner ensures their safety and the overall safety of the mission," said H.E Sara Al Amiri, Minister of State and Mission Science Lead.

Getting the probe to Japan, where it will mount the 53-metre-tall propulsion system is just a small part of the momentous journey ahead.

The 493,500,000 km journey to Mars will take 7 months. When it begins to enter Mars’ orbit in February 2021 it will be travelling at a speed of 121,000 km/h.

Once orbiting Mars, Hope’s mission is focused on the planet's atmospheric dynamics. What makes this mission unique is that it will explore the atmosphere of Mars as a whole while sampling both daily and seasonal timescales.

"Weather is not a still image that happens at one particular time," explains H.E Sara Al Amiri. "Weather is a continuously developing and evolving system and understanding the weather of Mars provides us an understanding of the atmospheric makeup of that planet and the atmospheric changes that that planet goes through."

Getting the Hope Probe to the launch pad has been a six-year journey.

"Missions like these, they usually take ten years. We had only six years to go through the design, development, manufacturing and testing," said 28-year-old spacecraft propulsion engineer, Ayesha Sharafi.

The mission is part of a larger plan to develop the science and technology sector. The UAE hopes to be seen as a beacon of progress in the region.

Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum views the mission as an inspiration:

"This mission to Mars is really for the hope of the Arab world and sending them a message to say you can be better, you can improve your country. You can reach where you want.”