The UAE's Hope probe turns one year old in orbit around Mars

The UAE's Hope probe turns one year old in orbit around Mars

The UAE's Mars mission, called Hope and launched in July 2020, arrived on the Red Planet seven months later and successfully entered orbit around Mars on February 9, 2021. After a few months in orbit, the mission began his scientific observations, which focus on the atmosphere and climate of Mars.

"We are very happy to see the progress of the mission," Hessa Al Matroushi, scientific director of the mission, told a virtual meeting by the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group, a NASA advisory group, on February 3. “We are very excited about the science we are getting from this mission.”

Indeed, one of the mission's first discoveries came from data collected even before the spacecraft entered its formal scientific observation program. Hope's observations have confirmed that an elusive phenomenon called the discrete aurora is occurring on the planet's night side. Hope's main mission is planned to last a Martian year (687 Earth days). This timeline is important because mission scientists want to understand how weather and climate work across the planet for both a day and a year. For example, Al Matroushi said the team studied the characteristics of water clouds that appear to grow at the beginning and end of the day and shrink in the middle of the day.

The vehicle space is also designed to help scientists understand how the different layers of Mars' atmosphere interact. The mission releases new data every three months, with the next batch scheduled to be released in April, Al Matroushi noted.

Hope is the UAE's first mission beyond Earth's orbit and was launched to coincide with the nation's 50th anniversary in December 2021. The arrival of the spacecraft made the UAE the fifth entity to successfully reach the Red Planet, joining NASA, the Soviet Union, the European Space Agency and India; China joined the group just a day after the UAE with its Tianwen-1 mission.

Since Hope's arrival, the UAE has also announced the mission's successor, a mission yet nameless in the asteroid belt the nation hopes will inform both science and exploration. The mission will build directly on the design of the Martian orbiter, while addressing new engineering challenges and incorporating the UAE's industry more deeply.

On the first anniversary of Hope's arrival, the spacecraft is alone halfway through its main mission, and the team hopes there's a lot more science ahead of the probe. "Our main scientific period ends next year, in April," said Al Matroushi. “We are currently planning a proposal for the extended mission.”

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