The First UAE Mission to Mars
The journey of the first UAE Mission to Mars began in 2014 with the signing of an agreement between the UAE Space Agency and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. Hope was chosen as the mission’s name in order to send a message of optimism to millions of young Arabs. The Hope Mission team is working towards landing a probe on Mars in 2021 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE.
While the UAE could have easily bought technology and expertise from any of the more established space programmes, agencies or companies, it was decided that a team composed only of Emiratis would plan and carry out the entire mission. Because of this, the knowledge and skills learned during the entire process will pave the way for a new generation of Arab engineers and scientists.
The Mission Objective
The Hope Mission team is building a probe that will conduct the first ever holistic study of the Martian climate. Data on the different components of the Martian climate such as the interrelation between atmospheric layers, temperature, wind speed, dust and clouds will be collected and sent back to Earth where it will be collated, analyzed and shared freely with more than 200 universities and research institutes around the world. This is the UAE’s contribution to the international science community and to human knowledge.
The information can be used in many important studies, such as predicting the evolution of Earth’s atmosphere over millions of years and determining whether life might possibly exist on other planets. It might finally answer the burning question: Can humans live on Mars?
The Hope Mission is the beginning of a legacy not just for the country but for the entire region. While this first UAE Mission to Mars will involve an unmanned probe, UAE’s plans to send a manned mission to Mars within the next 100 years have inspired other Gulf states to enter the space race as well.
The timing of the launch is crucial as the orbits of the Earth and Mars only align at their closest point once every two years. This means that the Hope Mission team has a very narrow window of opportunity in July 2020 to launch the rocket bearing the probe. Once launched, it will take the probe seven months to travel through space to Mars.
The spacecraft cannot be controlled in real time from Earth so the team of more than 100 Emirati engineers will have to design a spacecraft that will be able to navigate its way to Mars using star trackers and boosters.
It is a delicate and complex operation so the designers must make sure everything is just right. The smallest miscalculation and the spacecraft may miss Mars and the mission will fail. In the months and years leading up the launch, the Hope Mission team continues to work together diligently, knowing what this mission can contribute to the UAE and the world. Meanwhile, Emiratis can look to the skies and be filled with hope.