Emirates Mars Mission's Hope Probe: All you need to know
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Emirates Mars Mission’s Hope Probe: All you need to know

Emirates Mars Mission’s Hope Probe: All you need to know

The metal piece of the probe is decorated with the phrase ‘The power of hope shortens the distance between earth and sky’, the UAE flag and the slogan ‘The impossible is possible’


On July 20, 2020, the UAE’s – and the Arab World’s – first mission to Mars, the Hope Probe lifted off from the Tanegashima Island in Japan on a 493.5 million km long journey.

The culmination of a six-year effort of 200 Emirati engineers and researchers – who constructed the Arab world’s first spacecraft – the Hope probe is anticipated to enter the red planet’s orbit on February 9, 2021, after having completed a seven-month journey.

The unmanned spacecraft will accomplish an unprecedented endeavour, that of exploring the climatic dynamics of the Red Planet on daily and seasonal timescales for a full Martian year (687 earth days).

Here is all there is to know about the UAE’s Hope Probe:

Lift-off: Since its launch from Tanegashima Space Centre in southwestern Japan, on a Mitsubishi MH-IIA rocket, the Hope probe has completed the launch and early operation stages.

Read: Video: UAE Hope Probe bound for Mars successfully launches from Japan

Image Courtesy: Emirates Mars Mission website

Initial Operations: The Hope probe has overcome several complex operations throughout its seven-month journey. During the first stage of the launch, the rocket accelerated away from Earth using its solid-fuel engines. As the rocket penetrated the Earth’s atmosphere, the fairing that protects the Hope probe was discharged.

In the second phase of the launch, the first-stage rocket was disconnected, placing the probe into the earth’s orbit before the second-stage launcher pushed the probe on its trajectory towards Mars at a speed of more than 11km/s, or 39,600kph.

The probe then moved to the following ‘early operation’ stage where an automated sequence awakened the probe. The central computer was activated and heaters were switched on to prevent the fuel from freezing.

The Hope probe then deployed its solar panels and its sensors to locate the sun, maneuvering to direct the panels towards the sun to begin charging the onboard battery. With the power switched on, the first signals from the Hope probe were detected by the NASA Deep Space Network ground station in Madrid.

Successful Maneuvers: After receiving the first successful transmission from the probe, the mission team conducted safety tests for 45 days to ensure the probe’s instruments and systems on board are working efficiently. During this phase, the team completed a series of maneuvers to refine the probe’s trajectory to Mars, the first two of which were done on August 11 and August 28, last year.

Read: UAE Hope Probe completes first course correction to reach Mars’ orbit

The probe then successfully entered the Cruise stage, the third of its journey, through a series of routine operations. The team from the ground station maintained contact with the probe for 6-8 hours, 2-3 times a week.

On November 8, 2020, the team successfully performed the third trajectory maneuver to direct the probe towards Mars, setting the date of arrival to the orbit to February 9, 2021, at 7:42pm local time.

During this phase, the team commissioned the science instruments for the first time in space, conducting regular checks to ensure their efficiency. The instruments were calibrated using stars to ensure they are ready to operate once they arrive in Mars’ orbit.

Mars Orbit Insertion
On February 9, 2021, the probe will enter its fourth leg of the journey, the Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI). During this phase, the ground and space segments are kept to a minimum. Nearly half of the fuel is spent to slow the Hope Probe down enough to capture Mars’ orbit. The fuel burn (firing the Delta V thrusters) will last around 30 minutes and reduces the speed of the spacecraft from over 121,000kph to approximately 18,000kph.

Read more: Countdown begins as UAE’s Hope probe prepares to enter Mars’ orbit

Since the Mars Orbit Insertion phase is very critical, the spacecraft will need to be commissioned again and the instruments onboard tested before entering the transition to science phase.

Transition to Science
The first contact with the observatory after the insertion will likely come from the ground station in Spain, according to the Emirates Mars Mission website.

The Hope Probe will then transition from the capture orbit to an acceptable science orbit in preparation for its primary science operations. The capture orbit is an elliptical orbit lasting 40 hours, and it will take the probe as close as 1,000 km above Mars’ surface and as far as 49,380 km away from it.

Image Courtesy: Emirates Mars Mission website

Key Facts:

  • On July 16, 2014, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, announced that the nation would be going to Mars, issuing a decree to establish the UAE Space Agency
  • The initial launch date of the Hope Probe was marked for July 15, but was delayed due to inclement weather
  • The probe was transferred to Tanegashima Island in Japan in an 83-hour journey over land, sea and air
  • The probe will gather and send back 1,000 GB of new Mars data to the Science Data Centre in the UAE via different ground stations worldwide. Data will be analysed and shared for free with the international Mars Science community.
  • Understanding the geographical and climate changes of Mars and the other planets will help us find solutions for challenges facing mankind on earth
  • The probe, for the first time, will study the link between weather change and atmospheric loss, a process that may have caused the Red Planet’s surface corrosion and the loss of its upper atmosphere

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