Arab world’s first probe nears Mars (TH)

Context: The first Arab interplanetary mission is expected to reach Mars’ orbit on Tuesday (8 Feb 2021) in what is considered the most critical part of the journey to unravel the secrets of weather on the Red Planet.

Analysis

  • The launch of the probe, known as “Al-Amal” in Arabic, had twice been delayed because of bad weather.
  • Only the United States, India, the former Soviet Union, and the European Space Agency have successfully sent missions to orbit the fourth planet from the sun, while China is preparing to launch its first Mars rover later this month.
  • The Emirati project is one of three racing to Mars, including Tianwen-1 from China and Mars 2020 (Perseverance rover) from the United States, taking advantage of a period when the Earth and Mars are nearest.
  • Earth and Mars orbit the Sun at different rates and are aligned at their closest points only once every two years.
  • “Hope” is expected to enter Mars orbit by February 2021, marking the year of the 50th anniversary of the unification of the UAE, an alliance of seven emirates.
  • Unlike the two other Mars ventures scheduled for this year, it will not land on the Red Planet, but instead orbit it for a whole Martian year, or 687 days.

Emirates Mars Mission – Hope Probe

  • In July 2014, the UAE announced the launch of the Emirates Mars Mission project.
  • This initiated work on developing the first Arabic-Islamic probe to be sent to Mars by 2020.
  • The probe will be built by an Emirati team of engineers and experts and will be sent on a scientific voyage of discovery to the Red Planet.
  • The Emirates Mars Mission called “Hope” was announced in 2015 with the aim of creating mankind’s first integrated model of the Red planet’s atmosphere.

Scientific Objectives of the Probe Voyage

  • Specifically, the Emirates Mars Mission will be:
  1. The first probe to study climate throughout daily and seasonal cycles – previous probes took snapshots only at a certain time of day;
  2. Mars’s first true weather satellite;
  3. The first to study the effects that events in the lower atmosphere, such as changes in temperature and dust storms, can have in the upper atmosphere days or weeks later;
  4. The first to examine the interaction between climate and geography, such as links and differences between weather on the peaks of Mars’s massive volcanoes and in the depths of its canyons.
  • The Mars science community will gain new insights about the weather on Mars, such as its famous dust storms.
  • On Earth, dust storms are brief and localised. On Mars, massive storms of red dust are known to engulf the entire planet.
  • It will have a digital camera that will send back high-resolution colour images and an infra-red spectrometer, which will examine temperature patterns, ice, water vapour and dust in the atmosphere.
  • It also will have an ultraviolet spectrometer which will study the upper atmosphere and traces of oxygen and hydrogen further out into space.

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