UAE becomes the fifth country to successfully enter the orbit of Mars

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) made history by successfully entering the orbit of the red planet on February 9. With this mission, named Hope Probe Mars mission, UAE’s Space Agency became the fifth agency in the world to achieve the feat—after those from the US, the Soviet Union, Europe and India.

The spacecraft left for the journey to Mars in July 2020 and took approximately seven months to reach the red planet. The spacecraft went through a 27-minute burn phase of its main thrusters, which helped the probe to enter an initial capture orbit around Mars, at 10:57 a.m. Eastern time. As per reports, the ground-based team at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) received signals from the spacecraft after 11 minutes, which confirmed the successful orbital insertion of the probe.

Now, after successful entry, the UAE scientists and engineers will spend the next two months testing the spacecraft and its onboard scientific instruments before its final science orbit. In its capture orbit, Hope Probe’s nearest point above Mars’ surface is 1,000 km while its farthest point is 49,380 km. The probe will travel at altitudes ranging from 20,000 to 43,000 kilometers above the planet with an inclination of 25 degrees.

“During this stage, the ground control at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai will conduct Three Transition to Science (TTS) manoeuvers to move the probe from its capture to science orbit by April,” said Omran Ahmed Al Hammadi, head of the Science Data Centre for the probe. In this orbit, the spacecraft can complete one orbit of Mars every 55 hours and will capture a full planetary sample every nine days.

The main aim of the mission is to study the planet’s thin atmosphere. The other main goals include the study of the planet’s climate dynamics—how Mars loses hydrogen and oxygen from its atmosphere. The most ambitious goal is to create a global map of Mars’ atmosphere—the first by any nation in the world.

With its three scientific instruments, Hope Probe will map a complete portrait of the Martian atmosphere and study its seasonal and daily changes. Moreover, the spacecraft is expected to collect more than one terabyte (1,000 GB) of new data, which will be shared with over 200 academic and scientific institutions worldwide for free.