When you think of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) you most likely think of oil and gas rather than space exploration. You'll have to start thinking again as the Middle Eastern nation launched its first-ever mission to Mars on July 19th.
The UEA's Martian probe, Hope, made its way up to Space from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center on Sunday, successfully and safely separating itself from its rocket around one hour after launch.
UAE joining the Mars race
The UAE has joined in the race towards the red planet, all in the name of scientific research. China, the U.S., and Europe all have their own missions to make it to Mars, and now the UAE has launched its Hope probe in a bid to reach the planet by February 2021.
Hope's primary purpose is for scientific exploration, namely observing Mars' weather. However, unlike the other missions to the planet, Hope won't be landing directly onto Mars. It'll orbit the planet for 687 days — or, one Martian year. The plan as it stands is for Hope to make it to Mars' orbit by February 2021.
Hope's timing wasn't only planned within the window of time that is best suited for reaching the red planet, it also has economic and political undertones. In a bold way, it'll be used to celebrate the nation's 50th anniversary since its founding in December 2021. So the launch had to happen this Summer in order to make it in time.
Even though it's still early days for the probe, some people are already celebrating its successful start: "Years of hard work and dedication have paid off in a big way," Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE ambassador to the United States, said during a livestream following the launch, as per the Verge.
"Thanks to the mission team efforts, the UAE’s first spacecraft, which six years ago was just a concept, just an idea, is now flying into space well on its way to another planet. This is a huge accomplishment. But it’s just the beginning."
The Emirati team wasn't working alone, as it had support from a number of institutions in the U.S. including the University of Colorado at Boulder, Arizona State University, and the University of California, Berkeley.
Time will tell which Mars mission will be the most successful, but this certainly looks like a good start for the UAE.