UAE’s Mars mission delayed again due to bad weather


World, Middle East

Named Al-Amal or ‘Hope’, the probe is the first-ever Arab space mission now set to be launched on coming Friday

Sarah Amiri, deputy project manager of the United Arab Emirates Mars mission, talks about the project named "Hope," or "al-Amal" in Arabic, which is scheduled for launch in 2020, during a ceremony in Dubai, UAE.(AP)

The first-ever Arab space mission to Mars is postponed again, now scheduled to blast off only on coming Friday 2:13 am IST (12:43 am UAE time) on a mission to unravel from above the weather dynamics in the red planet's atmosphere.

The probe, named Al-Amal or ‘Hope’, was originally set to be launched from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre on Wednesday, 12:51 am UAE time (8.51 pm Tuesday GMT), but had been postponed until Friday.

The UAE, made up of seven emirates, is set to be the first Arab nation to send a probe to Mars, and is one of three racing to Mars, with Chinese and US rockets also taking advantage of the Earth and Mars being unusually close: a mere hop of 55 million kilometres (34 million miles).

A future in space

UAE’s first-ever space mission has goals touching beyond the sky, literally. The Hope probe has a long term 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.

Under a national space strategy launched last year, the UAE is also eyeing future mining projects beyond Earth and space tourism and has signed a memorandum of understanding with Richard Branson's space tourism company Virgin Galactic.

Hope’s journey

The launch of Hope is the next step they envisage towards these goals, as the oil-rich country already has nine functioning satellites in orbit with plans to launch another eight in coming years.

In September, it sent the first Emirati into space - Hazza al-Mansouri, who was part of a three-member crew. They blasted off on a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan, returning home after an eight-day mission in which he became the first Arab to visit the International Space Station.

Hope, the next milestone in their space dreams, is expected to start orbiting Mars by February 2021, marking the 50th anniversary of the unification of the UAE.

Unlike the other two Mars ventures scheduled for this year by China and US, Hope will not land on Mars but orbit it for a whole Martian year - 687 days.

Three instruments mounted on the probe will provide a picture of the Mars atmosphere throughout the Martian year.

The first is an infrared spectrometer to measure the lower atmosphere and analyse the temperature structure.

The second is a high-resolution imager that will provide information about ozone levels. And the third, an ultraviolet spectrometer, is set to measure oxygen and hydrogen levels from a distance of up to 43,000 kilometres from the surface.

Understanding the atmospheres of other planets will allow for a better understanding of the Earth's climate, officials say.

Inspire the country’s youth

UAE’s ventures into seeking a future in space is also an attempt to look back and find inspiration from its golden past of scientific achievements.

Officials say the probe will inspire the region's youth and pave the way for scientific breakthroughs.

"The UAE wanted to send a strong message to the Arab youth and to remind them of the past, that we used to be generators of knowledge," Omran Sharaf, the mission's project manager, told reporters.

 A region too often beset by turmoil, Hope could well be an inspiration to remember the heyday of scientific advances during the Middle Ages.