The Hope Mars Mission is being carried out by the United Arab Emirates, and scientists say it will give them some insight into how the Red Planet’s climate changes throughout its year.
This could allow researchers to link Mars’ weather today with the planet’s ancient climate, as well as study how it lost so much of its atmosphere to the vacuum of space, NASA said.
Though built by the UAE, the mission will launch from Tanegashima in Japan.
Liftoff is due on Tuesday, July 14, at 13:51 PT, or 21:51 here in the UK’s BST time.
A livestream of the launch will be broadcast by the Mohammad bin Rashid Space Centre, which can be watched on the Emirates Mars Mission site at this link.
The Mars probe will use an array of instruments to carry out its observation of the Martian atmosphere.
According to NASA’s profile of the mission, these are all mounted on the side of the spacecraft, and include the Emirates eXploration Imager – a high-resolution camera.
The other two instruments are both types of spectrometer – a scientific instrument that is broadly used to measure how a physical attribute changes over a given range.
According to its mission profile, the UAE’s probe will attempt to track how hydrogen and oxygen are escaping from Mars’ atmosphere, and also examine how the upper and lower levels of its atmosphere are connected.
However, researchers will have to wait for some time before any of this research can be carried out.
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Scientists say the probe will take 200 days to make the journey from the Earth to Mars, before parking itself in a 55-hour orbit around the planet.
Once there, it is hoped that the probe will be able to operate for at least two years starting May 2021.
However, NASA states that this operational period could be extended even further up to 2025 if the mission proves successful.
After Tuesday’s launch, the probe will be carried on a Mitsubishi H-IIA rocket booster.
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CNET reports that, though the rocket isn’t as well-known as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 models, the H-IIA has over 40 successful launches during its history which have mostly involved carrying Japanese satellite systems into orbit.
But even aside from the scientific milestones that the mission will set, the launch is also a first in another important way for the UAE.
The Hope Mars Mission will be the first interplanetary mission that is led by an Arab, Muslim-majority country.
Suitably, the probe will arrive in Mars orbit on the same year that the UAE celebrates its 50th anniversary.
CNET’s Abrar Al-Heeti hopes that the mission will also help bring more women into the field of STEM research – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths.
And Sarah Al Amiri, chair of the UAE Council of Scientists and deputy project manager for the Emirates Mars Mission, told CNET that the mission was “an internal reinforcement of what the UAE is about”.
She added: “The intent was not to put a message or declaration to the world”.
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