Hope is the Arab nation's first attempt to become interplanetary. The spacecraft took off from the Japanese Tanegashima space center on top of an Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA missile yesterday around 22 pm Italian time.
An hour after take-off, it separated from the rocket and deployed its solar panels to power the seven-month journey to the red planet. The space agency of the United Arab Emirates it is in history.
"Years of hard work and dedication have paid off", the ambassador said Yousef Al Otaiba shortly after launch. "This is a great achievement, but it's just the beginning."
The ambassador's enthusiasm
"It's hard to put the words together, but honestly watching it take off, knowing how hard it was, knowing how challenging it was made me feel immense pride," he said. Al Otaiba. "I think every Arab on the face of the planet should walk around feeling proud of what we have achieved today."
The launch was originally scheduled for July 14, but has been delayed several times due to bad weather conditions on the launch site.
The $ 200 million Hope mission, also called the Emirates Mars Mission, is the UAE's first foray into interplanetary exploration and its arrival was designed to celebrate the nation's 50th anniversary.
The mission serves to boost the nation's technological and scientific sectors, also because the United Arab Emirates are looking for an economic model capable of supporting them beyond their oil wealth.
Mars 'Hope': the first interplanetary spacecraft of the United Arab Emirates
For a country that has almost no planetary scientific expertise, this was a tall order. Scientists involved in the mission consulted experts from around the world and concluded that a feasible way to achieve the goal was to design a probe that would collect comprehensive data on the Martian atmosphere.
The spacecraft is expected to provide scientists with the data they need to focus on how the climate on Mars changes over the course of a day and a year anywhere on the globe.
Another goal of the Emirates Mars Mission is to study the atmosphere of Mars, once much richer and more inclusive of water. Scientists want to know how things went, and they need data to figure it out.
To answer these questions, Hope is equipped with three different instruments, an imager and two spectrometers. The former will provide detailed images of the planet's surface, while all three will collect data that allow scientists to track which ingredients are found in Mars' atmosphere.
Now that the spacecraft is on its way, Hope still has a long way to go: 500 million kilometers. The spacecraft will spend seven months in space before arriving in orbit around the Red Planet. From then on, Hope will spend a full Martian year (nearly two Earth years) studying its atmosphere.
Yesterday's launch kicked off a series of take-offs to take advantage of a three-week window of favorable orbital alignment between Earth and Mars that occurs only every 26 months.
China is next to leave, with a mission called Tianwen-1 scheduled for 23 July. The mission will include an orbiting aircraft, a lander and a rover and will aim to address issues about the geology and environment of the Red Planet.
Following this, NASA's awaited Mars 2020 mission is heading towards the countdown on 30 July. It will be the turn of Perseverance, a huge six-wheeled rover carrying a small helicopter. If all goes well, it will become the first aircraft in history to fly to another planet. I talked about it here.