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Hope spacecraft enters Mars orbit, making history for UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) made history on Tuesday when it became the first Arab nation to have a spacecraft reach Mars.

Following a seven-month flight to the red planet, the probe dubbed “Amal,” meaning “Hope,” entered Mars orbit after successfully completing a challenging braking maneuver that allowed it to be caught by Mars’ gravity.

The mission team tweeted confirmation of the spacecraft’s milestone with words: “7 years of work crowned with success!”

7 years of work crowned with success! The Hope Probe is now in Mars' orbit.#ArabsToMars #HopeProbe

— Hope Mars Mission (@HopeMarsMission) February 9, 2021

Rather than send a rover to the surface of the red planet as the upcoming NASA and Chinese missions plan to do, Hope will stay in orbit, using its plethora of scientific instruments to build a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere and provide scientists with new data about the planet’s four seasons and climate. The spacecraft will orbit Mars once every 55 hours for an entire Martian year, which lasts 687 days.

Around the size of a small SUV, the Hope spacecraft is 2.37 meters (7.78 feet) wide and 2.9 meters (9.51 feet) tall, and, with fuel on board, tips the scales at 1,500 kg (3,307 pounds). The spacecraft had been heading to Mars at high speed and on approach had to perform a very precise 27-minute burn on its braking engines. The maneuver dramatically reduced its speed to prevent it from missing its target and flying further into deep space.

With Tuesday’s success, the UAE joins an elite club of spacefaring nations that have made it to Mars, including the U.S., Europe, India, and the former Soviet Union.

We’re in for a busy few days when it comes to Mars missions. China’s Tianwen-1 is set to arrive on Wednesday, February 10, while NASA’s highly anticipated Perseverance mission will reach Mars on Thursday, February 18. Both missions will undertake perilous procedures as each one attempts to safely land a rover on the surface of the faraway planet.

But Tuesday was the UAE’s day, as the nation became the first in the Arab world to reach Mars. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, said he hopes the mission will inspire young people to work in the fields of science and engineering.

The entry of the Hope Probe into the orbit of Mars is a significant accomplishment in our nation’s history. This achievement was made possible by the Emirati pioneers whose work will inspire future scientists and engineers for generations. We are immensely proud of them.

— محمد بن زايد (@MohamedBinZayed) February 9, 2021

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Trevor Mogg
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