UAE leaders hail Mars probe mission as nation's 'greatest achievement yet'

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said the country would enter a new chapter in its history

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Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said the UAE’s mission to Mars would be the nation’s “greatest achievement yet”.

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces said the country would enter a new chapter when the Hope probe was sent into space, with the launch scheduled for tomorrow.

"A distinct historic chapter, and an embodiment of Sheikh Zayed's vision. The UAE, led by Sheikh Khalifa, is about to embark on its greatest achievement yet," Sheikh Mohamed said on Twitter.

"The Hope Probe was made possible by the efforts of our creative and dedicated youth, who remain our most significant investment. Our gratitude to them and my brother Mohammed bin Rashid’s determination to mark an important chapter in the UAE's history and its future’s vision."

I hope that we are making our forefathers, our predecessors who established this country, proud of us.

The Hope probe has a potential launch slot for 1.58am on Monday UAE time. Officials will make a decision on Sunday morning, taking into consideration the weather in southern Japan.

Poor conditions and weeks of heavy rain led to the launch being called off twice last week, but the weather has improved in recent days.

In a video message to Emirati engineers at Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said the launch was a landmark moment for the Arab world.

"I hope that we are making our forefathers, our predecessors who established this country, proud of us," he said.

"With your efforts and diligence Bu Rashid, we see today these accomplishments are making us proud, the Arab world proud and our parents proud."

He added: "Today is a big day in UAE history and in the Arab world, because this is being done in the name of every Arab as it is the first time something like this happens in our history.

"This is a big honour for me personally, the people of the UAE, Emiratis and residents."

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said people around the world would be watching.

"My brother Mohamed bin Zayed and I spoke to the Hope probe team in Japan and at the control centre in Al Khawaneej," he said on Twitter.

"Behind this historic mission stands the Emirati people and millions of people around the world will be watching.

"The probe will travel 495 million km to become the first Arab mission to reach the Red Planet. It is a historic turning point in the UAE's scientific development and that of the Arab world

"Our mission has succeeded in making people believe that nothing is impossible in the face of will and determination.

He said the probe's arrival on Mars in 2021, after a seven month journey, would coincide with Emirates celebrating its 50th anniversary.

"Our country will celebrate its 50th anniversary since unification when the probe reaches Mars and it will move through the next 50 with a different spirit, renewed determination, aspirations that reach the skies and young people who will let nothing get in their way," he said.

The UAE has been racing to find the earliest launch opportunity for the first mission, as the narrow launch window closes on August 3. If missed, it will not take off until Earth and Mars realign in 2022.

The first launch attempt on July 15 was scrubbed because of unstable weather and the second July 17 date was pushed back.

After weeks of thunderstorms at the launch site around Tanegashima island, the skies have cleared in recent days.

Weather forecasts show a sunny morning, however, a mission ‘go/no go’ meeting will be held by Mitusbishi Heavy Industries – the rocket provider – and the UAE Mars mission team on Sunday morning.

“We will start preparing for 20 hours before the launch,” Omran Al Shehhi, a senior space official, told Abu Dhabi's Emarat TV on Saturday.

“The launch was postponed the first two times, but we are more excited and ready.”

The rocket will be fuelled after it is transported from the vehicle assembly building to the launch pad in a 30-minute-long process.

The mission cost Dh735 million and took six years to develop. The probe aims to study the climate of Mars and will send back one terabyte of data over a period of two years, which will be shared to more than 200 research centres across the world for free.

The launch provider has a strict weather criteria in place for a launch to receive a go-ahead. Peak wind speed should not exceed 20.9 metres per second, rain should be less than 8mm per hour and no cumulonimbus clouds in flight trajectory.

There also should be no atmospheric discharge in the flight trajectory no lightning within 10km of the launch site and lightning observed within 20km of flight path.

The probe was switched on once to test if it is able to send signals to Nasa’s Deep Space Network – a project involving massive antennas in three different countries that can send command and retrieve telemetry from spacecrafts in deep space.