July 20 (Forbes):
The United Arab Emirates’ first-ever mission to Mars has launched, beginning a seven-month journey to the Red Planet in a historic mission.
At 5.58 P.M. Eastern Time today, Sunday, July 19, the UAE’s $200 million Hope spacecraft lifted off on board a Japanese Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-2A rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center off the southern coast of mainland Japan.
About one hour after launching, the spacecraft separated from the upper stage of the rocket and began its solo journey to Mars. It is scheduled to arrive in February 2021, when it will enter orbit around the planet and begin its mission.
“Years of hard work and dedication have paid off in a big way,” Yousef Al Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the United States, said following the launch. “The UAE’s first Mars spacecraft is now flying into space, well on its way to another planet.”
Now that the spacecraft has launched, it will be months of both hard work and nervous waiting for the mission control team at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in Dubai, with several maneuvers required along the way to Mars.
When it arrives, Hope will be placed into an orbit between 20,000 and 43,000 kilometers above the surface of Mars. It will complete an orbit once every 55 hours, inclined at an angle of 25 degrees, meaning different parts of Mars will rotate beneath the spacecraft.
Hope has three instruments on board to carry out a number of different scientific goals. It will study hydrogen and oxygen in the Marian atmosphere, and help to work out how Mars lost its atmosphere over the last few billion years.
Perhaps most interestingly, Hope will act as a Martian weather satellite, providing updates on dust storms and ice clouds on Mars, monitoring the weather at different times of the day, and tracking seasonal changes.
The science mission of the spacecraft will begin in May 2021, after its instruments have been checked out. It also has a camera on board, to take images of the surface and return them to Earth.
The mission will last two Earth years, equivalent to one Martian year. But it could last for up to four Earth years – or two Martian years – depending on how the spacecraft fares in its time at Mars.