Party in the United Arab Emirates: their Marssonde al-Amal (‘Hope’) has entered preliminary orbit around the red planet. Only three countries and the European Space Agency ESA preceded them.
The probe was launched with a Japanese launch vehicle in July last year and is the first of three new expeditions to reach Mars. At 4:30 pm, six pilot rockets fired, causing the unmanned spacecraft’s speed to drop from 121,000 to 18,000 kilometers per hour. This is how the gravity of our neighboring planet got a hold of the probe.
The ignition took 27 minutes. After that, it was more than eleven minutes nail-biting before confirmation came that the maneuver had been successful.
The Emirates are only the fifth “nation” to succeed in the feat. Its predecessors were the US, the Soviet Union, the European Space Agency, and India. About half of all Mars missions have failed.
Al-Amal also has a robot jeep with it, but it won’t try to land until May. The explorer has to map the weather on Mars for two years.
In addition, it must help understand what causes hydrogen and oxygen to disappear from the thin atmosphere of Mars. Those gases fly into space, leaving Mars no longer able to live like on Earth.
But the main purpose of the mission is to put the Emirates on the map in the year in which the country celebrates its 50th anniversary. The country sees science and technology as a source of income for the future when oil runs out.
The United Arab Emirates has had its own space agency since 2014, and in 2019 a resident of the country went to space for the first time.
Tomorrow the Chinese Mars explorer Tianwen-1 is also to carry out a similar maneuver. The craft will circling for another two to three months before embarking on the risky descent to the Martian surface. China wants to find traces of life and map the surface and soil of Mars.
On February 18, the American Perseverance must land on Mars. Hidden in the robot jeep’s cargo bay is the first alien helicopter, the Ingenuity. If that technology works, helicopters can help explore alien destinations much faster.