The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) spacecraft Hope reached Mars orbit ahead of China’s Tianwen-1. It is the UAE’s first interplanetary mission.
“This has been a remarkable journey of humanity,” UAE Space Agency chairperson Sarah Al Amiri said during preparations for the orbital insertion maneuver.
The UAE becomes the fifth entity to reach the red planet, joining NASA (National Aeronautics Space Administration), the Soviet Union, the European Space Agency, and India. This also sets the $200 million Hope spacecraft on the bright side of grim Mars mission statistics. To reckon, about half of the flights to Mars failed.
Hope carries three instruments for scientists to study the weather near the surface of Mars, the connections between different layers of the atmosphere, and how Mars loses atmosphere to space. Scientists hope that this data will help them understand how dust storms at the surface of Mars affect atmospheric loss and how weather systems around the globe relate to each other, among others.
Hope stays in orbit
Hope is now in temporary orbit for a few months as it powers on its instruments. Mission personnel plan to relocate the spacecraft to its science orbit in May. That science orbit will see the spacecraft circling high over the planet’s equator every 55 hours. It is a new orbit for a Mars spacecraft and will give Hope a unique opportunity to study large-scale atmospheric phenomena. The Hope mission is scheduled to last for a full Martian year or 687 Earth days.
Hope’s orbit insertion, meanwhile, was the first of three arrivals on Mars this month. On 10 February China’s Tianwen-1 mission conducted the same maneuver. Its rover will attempt to land on Mars in May. Then, NASA’s Perseverance rover will attempt to land near Jezero Crater on 18 February.
The rush to Mars began in July when all three spacecraft launched to take advantage of the alignment of Mars and Earth when the journey was most feasible. (BG/Headline PH)
Featured image: UAE’s spacecraft Hope ready to orbit Mars. Photo via Space.com.