On 2 December 1971, the Soviet Union’s Mars 3 spacecraft carried out the first successful landing on the surface of Mars. Interestingly, on that same day, millions of miles away back on Earth, one of the newest space-faring nations – United Arab Emirates (UAE) – was born. Now, almost half a century later, the UAE has launched its own spacecraft to Mars. It is called ‘Hope Probe’. The Hope Probe’s arrival on Mars coincides with the UAE’s 50th year as a nation, adding to its glory.
The name is not a wishful expression, although all space missions require faith that they will reach their destination. Rather, Hope is a signal of optimism to young people in the Emirates and beyond, of what can be achieved when people come together and work on a scientific challenge.
But it’s true, the UAE, a nation which is just 50 years old, has sent the Probe to Mars in 2020, on a voyage of scientific discovery. It may seem ambitious for such a young nation with very little history in science or engineering. But one thing the UAE has in abundance is a strong desire to progress and become one of the world’s leading nations in the fields of technology and innovation – as it moves on from oil-based economy to knowledge-based.
The Probe is currently near Mars, travelling at over 120,000kmph. It must fire its braking engines for 27 minutes in a bid to ensure that it is captured by the planet’s gravity.
While announcing the mission, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, said: “This Probe represents hopes for millions of young Arabs looking for a better future. There is no future, no achievement, no life without hope. The Emirates Mars Mission will be a great contribution to human knowledge, a milestone for Arab civilisation, and a real investment for future generations.”
The team of engineers working on developing the Emirates Mars Mission at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai, are the youngest team ever to have worked on a deep space mission anywhere in the world. The average age of a team member is 27.
In 2015, the target was laid down for the talented engineers working on the UAE mission to Mars by The President of UAE, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. His desire was that the Probe must arrive at Mars by the year 2021, in time to celebrate the Union of the seven emirates the formation of UAE. This gave the team just seven years to get to Mars – most missions take more than 10 years.
The Hope Probe will conduct analysis on the lower and upper atmospheres on the Red Planet, hoping to uncover crucial data which gives insight into why the atmosphere on Mars is escaping to space, making the Red Planet barren and inhospitable. It will also study the weather through the seasons – day and night; something that has never been studied before.
There is far more to the Emirates Mars Mission than science. The mission will build Emirate’s capabilities in deep space exploration and technology, and will help develop knowledge in the country to contribute to an economy no longer dependent upon oil. It will also enhance the UAE’s reputation and standing among more powerful and established nations in space, helping to start new partnerships and relationships. Finally, it is hoped the mission will kick start a move towards science and engineering for students in the UAE – something which has already started to happen, three years in advance of the launch date.
Now, UAE is all set to enter the orbit of the Red Planet. Considering that it is challenging, the country indeed made history becoming the first Arab nation to reach the farthest universe point. UAE’s Hope Probe will be the first of three missions to reach Mars in February 2021. To receive updated news and bulletins on Hope Probe, keep reading AlShorts, short news in 30 seconds.