DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates’ “Hope” probe on Tuesday successfully entered Mars’ orbit, making history as the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission.

The probe is designed to reveal the secrets of Martian weather, but the UAE also wants it to serve as an inspiration for the region’s youth.

“To the people of the UAE, to the Arab and Muslim nations, we announce the successful arrival to Mars’ orbit. Praise be to God,” said Omran Sharaf, the mission’s project manager.

Officials at the mission control broke into applause, visibly relieved after a tense half-hour as the probe carried out a “burn” to slow itself enough to be pulled in by Martian gravity, in what was the most perilous stage of the journey.

Hope is the first of three spacecraft to arrive at the Red Planet this month after China and the US also launched missions in July, taking advantage of a period when the Earth and Mars are nearest.

The Arab world’s first interplanetary mission is designed to reveal secrets of Martian weather

The UAE’s venture is also timed to mark the 50th anniversary of the unification of the nation’s seven emirates.

“What you have accomplished is an honour for you, and an honour for the nation. I want to congratulate you,” said Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed after entering the control room.

The probe, named “Al-Amal”, Arabic for “Hope” rotated and fired all six of its powerful thrusters to dramatically slow its average cruising speed of 121,000 kilometres per hour to about 18,000kph.

As the clock ticked down, Dubai’s needle-shaped Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, lit up in red with blue laser lights, and erupted into a light and fountain show with news of the success.

Landmarks across the Gulf state have been illuminated in red at night and government accounts and police patrol cars emblazoned with the #ArabstoMars hashtag.

The UAE this week also projected onto the Dubai night sky images of Mars’ two moons — Phobos and Deimos — to allow residents “to see what the probe sees”.

While the probe is designed to provide a comprehensive image of the planet’s weather dynamics, it is also a step towards a much more ambitious goal — building a human settlement on Mars within 100 years.

And apart from cementing its status as a key regional player, the UAE also wants to engage youth in a region too often wracked by sectarian conflicts and economic crises.

“This project means a lot for the nation, for the whole region, and for the global scientific and space community,” Sharaf said before the launch.

“It’s not about reaching Mars; it’s a tool for a much bigger objective. The government wanted to see a big shift in the mindset of Emirati youth... to expedite the creation of an advanced science and technology sector in the UAE.” The wealthy Gulf state now becomes the fifth space entity to reach Mars, with the China mission due to become the sixth on Wednesday.

Only the US, India, the former Soviet Union and the European Space Agency have successfully reached the Red Planet in the past.

“As a young nation, it is a particular point of pride that we are now in a position to make a tangible contribution to humanity’s understanding of Mars,” said Sarah al-Amiri, the 34-year-old UAE minister who is one of the drivers behind the project.

“Hope” will orbit the Red planet for at least one Martian year, or 687 days, using three scientific instruments to monitor the Martian atmosphere.

It is expected to begin transmitting information back to Earth in September 2021, with the data available for scientists around the world to study.

Unlike the other two Mars ventures, China’s Tianwen-1 and the Mars 2020 Perseverance from the United States, the UAE’s probe will not land on the Red Planet.

“Dear @HopeMarsMission, congratulations on arriving at Mars!” NASA’s Perseverance Twitter account said, citing the words of the great 10th century poet Al Mutanabbi.

“If you ventured in pursuit of glory, don’t be satisfied with less than the stars.”

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2021

Opinion

Editorial

Road to perdition
Updated 01 Feb, 2023

Road to perdition

This is also the time of reckoning for those who sowed the seeds of a disastrous policy against militants.
Transport tragedies
01 Feb, 2023

Transport tragedies

TWO tragedies over the weekend illustrate the weak protocols governing the safety of transport in Pakistan. In fact,...
Disqualifying Jam Awais
01 Feb, 2023

Disqualifying Jam Awais

IT appears that there may be some kind of small punishment after all for PPP lawmaker Jam Awais, who was pardoned ...
Police Lines bombing
Updated 31 Jan, 2023

Police Lines bombing

Where the menace of terrorism is concerned, the government and opposition need to close ranks and put up a united front.
Oil price hike
31 Jan, 2023

Oil price hike

THE record single-day increase in petrol prices, preceded by massive currency depreciation, signifies the ...
Babar Azam’s award
31 Jan, 2023

Babar Azam’s award

BABAR Azam might not have lifted many trophies as Pakistan’s all-format captain in the last year but the star...