Everything went right on Tuesday, February 9th with the UAE Hope Probe, as the United Arab Emirates joined a small distinguished list of nations that have successfully sent probes to Mars.
Built by Emirati engineers and launched on July 20th, 2020, from Tanegashima, Japan, the aptly named Hope Probe is the first Mars orbital craft launched by the UAE and the first such vehicle launched by any country in the Arab world. It is also especially fortuitous timing for the tiny island nation, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year.
“Success! Contact with #HopeProbe has been established again. The Mars Orbit Insertion is now complete,” stated a tweet from the mission’s Twitter account at 11:16 AM EST.
Making history, Hope successfully achieved the most critical step in the mission by establishing a stable orbit around Mars. The UAE is also the first Arab country to achieve a successful orbit around the Red Planet.
If Hope had approached too fast, it would have ripped right through the atmosphere and slammed into the planet’s surface. Coming in too slowly, the probe would have missed its insertion point and ended up flying off into deep space.
To accomplish this initial and admittedly risky part of the entire mission, Hope fired its six Delta 5 thrusters during a 27-minute deceleration, one which took the craft from a scorching 121,000 kilometers per hour (about 75 thousand miles per hour) to an orbital velocity around 18,000 km/h (just over 11,000 mph).
Hope lived up to its name during the orbital insertion. Mission commanders operating out of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) had no direct control over the orbiter. Instead, all of the critical steps needed to place the craft snugly into orbit were preprogrammed, leaving the team looking nervous during the live broadcast. It was undoubtedly an arduous wait. However, great relief and joy were apparent on their faces when the probe sent signals back to Earth confirming it had successfully established orbit.
“It has been a long process and a very tedious process, but the design is very robust. Although the failure rate is 50 percent, I believe success is within our grasp,” stated Lead mission design and Navigation engineer Omar Abdelrahman Hussain, only a few days ago. Now, he and his team can rest comfortably knowing their mission has been a success.
The UAE is only the third country to send a probe to Mars on its first try successfully. The UAE Hope Probe will now spend the first couple of months testing its instruments before moving to its permanent orbit.
NASA’s Perseverance Rover is also on its way to Mars, and will be landing on the planet at 3:00 PM EST on February 18th.
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