Sunday, we saw the start of the first mission to another planet led by an Arab-Islamic country—in this case, the United Arab Emirates—when the Emirates Mars Mission Hope Probe took off from Tanegashima, Japan at 5:58 pm EST.
It’s no secret that Mars once had a thicker atmosphere and a moisture-rich surface. But over billions of years, particles of oxygen and hydrogen (the constituent parts of water) have been streaming into space, thinning the atmosphere and drying out the surface. Like NASA’s MAVEN mission launched in 2013, the Hope mission aims to add to our knowledge of just why this process is occurring.
To do so, the probe will be equipped with three instruments. The Emirates Exploration Imager will snap visible images of mars at 12 mega-pixels, and it will measure the distribution of ice and ozone in the lower atmosphere by analyzing ultraviolet light. The Emirates Mars Infrared Spectrometer will also operate in the infrared band to measure dust, ice, and water in the atmosphere as well as on the planet’s surface. The Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer will measure the distribution of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide in the thermosphere and exosphere of the planet.
It Takes a Planet
Even though the satellite was built by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the mission itself will be a global effort. NASA’s Deep Space Network in California will be tapped to transmit commands to the craft. Mission design is being provided by Advanced Space in Colorado. Navigation support will come from KinetX in Arizona. And, finally, mission control will come out of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai.
The Hope probe will be launched using the two-stage H-IIA rocket from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which uses a mix of liquid hydrogen and oxygen for propulsion. Once settled into its 55-hour orbit, it will use a series of solar panels for power. If all goes well, the planned two-year mission could get a two-year extension.