The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has successfully launched the first Arab space mission to Mars. "Hope" (Al Amal in Arabic) is now bound for the Red Planet after lifting off from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center on Sunday, July 19.
The mission will be an incredible tool to understand how the Martian atmosphere changes. The spacecraft is an orbiter, so it won’t land on Mars, it will track how atmospheric properties are affected by geological features. Mars has one of the largest canyons in the Solar System and the tallest mountain, Olympus Mons, an extinct volcano that rises 26 kilometers (16 miles) high. These features' presence can certainly affect the atmosphere above and Hope will tell us how, and how much.
Thanks to Hope there will be a round-the-clock weather mapping of Mars too, and this data will be shared freely with scientists at over 200 research institutes and universities around the world. Hope, also known as Emirates Mars Mission, was built by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre together with the University of Colorado Boulder, Arizona State University, and the University of California, Berkeley.
It is expected to get into orbit around Mars on February 15, 2021. This seven-month trip simply to arrive at the Red Planet is among the shortest possible to get there. Every 780 days, a launch window opens when Earth and Mars are at their shortest distance from each other, which is why Hope won’t be alone on its journey towards Mars.
Later this week, on July 23, China’s Tianwen-1 mission is also expected to launch. This is a duo lander and rover mission and will be the first Chinese mission to land on Mars. It will investigate the possibilities of life there as well as study the Martian ground like never before. The mission is equipped with a radar that can map up to 100 meters (330 feet) below the Martian surface.
And last but certainly not least, is NASA's Mars 2020 mission, which includes the rover Perseverance and the Martian helicopter Ingenuity, the first flying vehicle to be sent to another world. The launch for Mars 2020 has been postponed a couple of times due to weather but it is now scheduled for July 30. Both Tianwen-1 and Perseverance are expected to land on their destination planet in February 2021.