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Mission to Mars. The challenge of the future

The Emirates Mars Mission, an orbiter also known as Hope, is scheduled to launch on an H-2A rocket from Japan during a three-week launch window that opens July 14. The spacecraft will go into orbit around Mars in early 2021 to study the Martian atmosphere.

“The main purpose of this mission was not to reach Mars, but to create a big disruptive change within the UAE to encourage youth to go into the sciences and engineering,” said Mr. Omran Sharaf, head of the mission. “Mars was a tool for a bigger objective.”(https://spacenews.com/uae-mars-mission-to-ship-to-launch-site/)

Preparation for the launch had been going well, Omran Sharaf, project director for the mission, said in an April 17 presentation at an online meeting of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG). The spacecraft completed environmental testing in the United States last December and was then transported to Dubai for a final set of tests.

Original plans called for completing those tests in May, then shipping the spacecraft to the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan for final launch preparations. The pandemic, though, led mission management to move up the ship date for the worst-case scenario.

The preparations included sending an advance team of engineers to Japan who will be out of quarantine when the spacecraft arrives and can immediately start working on the spacecraft. Those who travel with the spacecraft to Japan, though, will go into quarantine for two weeks before they can participate in launch preparations.

“This added another level of complexity” to a mission that was already challenging, he said. The mission is the first to Mars by the UAE, and a cornerstone of the country’s growing space ambitions.

Sharaf said the governments of both the UAE and Japan were supportive of plans to ship the spacecraft despite lockdowns imposed in response to the pandemic. “We got all the necessary approvals, and now the only thing that’s left is to ship the spacecraft,” he said.

Moving up the ship date, he said, means that some spacecraft tests won’t be performed.

China and the US also plan to launch orbiters and rovers to Mars in July. The month was chosen to take advantage of a narrow launch window – between July 14 and August 3 — when Earth and Mars align favorably for such missions.

If missed, space officials may have to wait 26 months for another launch opportunity. This would put a major dent in UAE’s plan to reach Mars by the country’s 50th anniversary in 2021 (https://www.thenational.ae/uae/science/uae-s-mission-to-mars-on-schedule-for-launch-despite-covid-19-1.993686).

On May Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum conducted a video conference meeting with the Hope Probe team at the Tanegashima Space Centre, Japan. He was briefed on the preparations for the Emirates Mars Mission.

Sheikh Hamdan reviewed the preparations for the Probe mission to be launched in July. The preparations for the mission launch will take place over a 50-day period (https://www.emirates247.com/news/emirates/dubai-crown-prince-reviews-preparations-for-emirates-mars-mission-2020-05-06-1.694317).

The Dubai Crown Prince praised the efforts of the Hope Probe team and the young Emirati professionals who worked on the project. The successful transfer of the Probe from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre to its launch site in Tanegashima Space Centre proved their high level of expertise, he said. The transfer of the Probe was made possible through 83 hours of nonstop work.

“The Arab world’s first interplanetary mission! The Emirates Mars Mission ‘Hope Probe’ will leave for Mars in July 2020, on a mission to find answers to the unsolved mysteries about the red planet,” Emirates Mars Mission said on Twitter on Thursday.

Sheikh Hamdan praised the team for their efforts and said they have demonstrated to the world that nothing is impossible and that they can overcome any challenges caused by the COVID-19 outbreak (https://www.emirates247.com/news/emirates/dubai-crown-prince-reviews-preparations-for-emirates-mars-mission-2020-05-06-1.694317).

Patrizia Marin

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