UAE becomes first Arab nation to launch space mission to Mars

Making history early on Monday, the United Atab Emirates became the first Arab nation to launch a space mission to Mars. The unmanned probe called “Hope” was launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre in southern Japan at 6:58 am local time.  

The Japanese rocket carrying the probe developed by the UAE, called "Al-Amal" in Arabic, had twice been delayed prior to this because of bad weather. 

Dubai celebrated the historic mission by lighting up the Burj Khalifa with a symbolic 10-second countdown in anticipation.

"This mission is an important milestone for the UAE and the region," said Yousuf Hamad AlShaibani, director of the UAE's Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. "It has already inspired millions of youth regionally to dream big and work hard to achieve what seems to be impossible."

"Hope" is expected to enter Mars orbit by February 2021. This will also mark the 50th anniversary of the unification of the UAE, an alliance of seven emirates.

“Hope” is one amongst three planned missions to Mars – the others being Tianwen-1 from China and Mars 2020 from the United States. Unlike the two other Mars ventures scheduled for this year, “Hope” will not land on the Red Planet, but instead orbit it for a whole Martian year, or 687 days.

All three missions hope to take advantage of a period when Earth and Mars are nearest. As per NASA, October will see Mars being a comparatively close 62.07 million kilometres from Earth.

The UAE's government declared the probe launch a "message of pride, hope and peace to the Arab region, in which we renew the golden age of Arab and Islamic discoveries." 

“Hope” is expected to begin transmitting information back to Earth in September 2021, with its data available for scientists around the world to study.