‘Hope’ probe approaches Mars | Daily News

‘Hope’ probe approaches Mars

The Hope Probe is scheduled to reach the Martian Orbit today.
The Hope Probe is scheduled to reach the Martian Orbit today.

UAE: The first Arab interplanetary mission is expected to reach Mars' orbit Tuesday in what is considered the most critical part of the journey to unravel the secrets of weather on the Red Planet.

The unmanned probe -- named "Al-Amal", Arabic for "Hope" -- blasted off from Japan last year, marking the next step in the United Arab Emirates' ambitious space programme.

Here are some facts and figures about the oil-rich nation's project, which draws inspiration from the Middle East's golden age of cultural and scientific achievements.

The UAE, made up of seven emirates including Dubai and Abu Dhabi, has 12 satellites in orbit, with plans to launch several more in coming years.

In September 2019 it sent the first Emirati into space, Hazza al-Mansouri, who was part of a three-member crew. They blasted off from Kazakhstan, returning home after an eight-day mission in which he became the first Arab to visit the International Space Station. But the UAE's ambitions go much further, with a goal of building a human settlement on Mars by 2117.

In the meantime, it plans to create a white-domed "Science City" in the deserts outside Dubai to simulate Martian conditions and develop the technology needed to colonise the planet. The UAE has plans to launch an unmanned rover to the moon by 2024 and is also eyeing future mining projects beyond Earth, as well as space tourism.

It has signed a memorandum of understanding with Richard Branson's space tourism company Virgin Galactic and announced the creation of a "space court" to settle commercial disputes relating to space industries.

The "Hope" probe lifted off from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center on July 20 last year.

The 1,350-kilogramme (2,970-pound) probe -- about the size of an SUV -- took seven months to travel the 493 million kilometres (307 million miles) to Mars.

Officials say that the "most critical and complex" manoeuvre will begin on Tuesday at 1530 GMT, to slow the spacecraft enough to be captured by the gravity of the Red Planet.

The probe will for the first time fire all six of its Delta-V thrusters, for a duration of 27 minutes, to slow its cruising speed of 121,000 kilometres per hour to about 18,000 kph.

The process will consume half of the spacecraft's fuel, and it will take 11 minutes for a signal on its progress to reach Earth. If successful, one loop around the planet will take 40 hours.