UAE Mars Mission: Hope probe makes first vital course correction

Spacecraft's six Delta-V thrusters fired for the first time to adjust path to Mars

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The UAE's first spacecraft headed for Mars has successfully adjusted its trajectory to ensure the probe remains on course.

Completion of the probe's first trajectory correction manoeuvre involved firing the Hope probe's six Delta-V thrusters for the first time in its seven-month journey to the Red Planet.

Emirates Mars Mission project director, Omran Sharaf, described the event as a "major milestone for us".

"Not only because it is the first time we have deployed the spacecraft’s Delta-V thrusters but also because it defines our path to cruise Mars,” Mr Sharaf said.

The spacecraft is expected to make seven vital course corrections throughout its journey of 493 million kilometres to Mars.

Hope was launched from Tanegashima Space Centre in south-west Japan on July 20.

Engineers said the performance of the rocket and spacecraft during the launch and early stage of the probe's journey had achieved an "outstandingly accurate trajectory".

“Hope has exceeded our expectations and is now on target to reach its Mars orbit insertion, requiring less adjustment to its course than we had originally planned,” Mr Sharaf said.

As part of planetary protection protocols, Mars and other missions are typically launched on an initial flight path that is intended to miss the mission’s planetary target.

Once tests have confirmed the spacecraft is performing, and mitigating the chance of an unplanned crash and potential contamination with Earth pathogens, its path is adjusted.

Insertion into Mars's orbit is scheduled to take place early in February 2021.

When it reaches the Red Planet, Hope will collect data to help build the first full picture of its climate throughout the Martian year.

It will explore the atmosphere of Mars globally while sampling daily and seasonal timescales.

Understanding atmospheres of other planets will allow scientists to better understand our own and others in the universe.