Work to build the UAE’s Hope Probe, which will study the atmosphere on Mars, is almost complete.
The probe is scheduled for launch next year and will reach the red planet in December 2021, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the country.
The UAE Space Agency and Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre confirmed 85 per cent of the project has been completed, and the probe has passed all of the tests it has been subjected to so far. They include its systems and components, as well as its ability to communicate with the ground.
The spacecraft will be one of three to orbit Mars. The other two are already in place.
Nasa is currently studying the upper atmosphere with one probe, while India analyses the lower atmosphere with another. The UAE’s probe will study how the upper and lower layers interact with one another, providing the first complete picture of the planet’s atmosphere. It will also help build a picture of how the seasons on Mars are affected by the light of the sun.
“The UAE is on the verge of making history after turning its dream of becoming the first Arabic and Islamic country to send a spacecraft to Mars into a reality,” said Dr Ahmad bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills and chairman of the UAE Space Agency.
“This monumental endeavour is the culmination of the efforts of a skilled and experienced team of young Emiratis, who with the support of the nation and its visionary leadership will secure the UAE’s position at the forefront of space exploration and the international space sector."
He said the project has helped the UAE position itself among the leading countries in the field of space manufacturing and exploration.
“The project has so far showcased the level of capabilities and world-class facilities that are available in the UAE. The development and launch of the Hope Probe to Mars would not have been possible without the inspired guidance of the UAE’s leadership, whose trust in, and support of young talented Emiratis has enabled our nation to achieve success across a range of sectors and industries," said Mr Al Falasi.
The probe will be launched from Japan between July and September next year.
The UAE’s space programme is advancing on several fronts. In September, Hazza Al Mansouri will become the first Emirati to travel to space, having been picked earlier this month to be the astronaut for the UAE’s International Space Station mission.
He is currently undergoing training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, alongside Sultan Al Neyadi, who is the backup astronaut.
The pair were selected from thousands of applicants for the mission, which is set for September 25.