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First-ever interplanetary mission by Arab states blasts off

The United Arab Emirates has made history with the successful launch of the Arab states’ first interplanetary mission.

Carrying a Mars-bound spacecraft called “Amal,” meaning “Hope,” a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ H-IIA rocket blasted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwest Japan at 6:58 a.m. local time on Monday, July 20 (2:48 p.m. PT, Sunday).

The launch came after several delays last week caused by poor weather conditions. You can watch it below from the 1-hour, 5-minute mark.

H-IIAロケット40号機打上げライブ中継 / Live streaming the launch of H-IIA Rocket No.40

Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the U.S., commented shortly after the launch of the Emirates Mars Mission, saying, “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.

“Years of hard work and dedication have paid off in a big way. This is a huge accomplishment, but it’s just the beginning.”

Al Otaiba added: “I think every Emirati on the face of the planet should go around feeling proud of what his country has managed to accomplish today.”

As planned, the spacecraft separated from the rocket about an hour after leaving the launchpad, with the next stage involving the deployment of its solar panels that will help provide the energy to carry Hope on its 308-million-mile, seven-month mission to the red planet.

Described as the size of a small SUV, the Hope spacecraft is about 2.37 meters (7.78 feet) wide and 2.9 meters (9.51 feet) tall, and, including fuel, tips the scales at 1,500 kilograms (3,307 pounds).

The UAE plans for its spacecraft to become the first to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere and its layers when it reaches the planet in 2021.

The spacecraft won’t land on Mars, but will instead orbit the planet once every 55 hours for an entire Martian year (687 days) to gather new data about its four seasons, climate, and atmosphere.

Sarah Al-Amiri, science lead of the Emirates Mars Mission, said recently that she hopes the endeavor would serve to encourage young Arab scientists to consider a career in space engineering.

The UAE’s mission comes just ahead of the launch of the much-anticipated Mars 2020 mission that’s set to lift off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on July 30 carrying the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter.

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Trevor Mogg
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