A space probe designed by Emirati engineers and due to launch this year is a message to young Arabs everywhere that "hope transcends the distance between earth and the skies."
That was the message from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, on Saturday, as he marked the arrival of the UAE's Hope Probe to its launch site in Japan.
UAE’s Hope probe arrived in Japan ahead of schedule, on April 22, to ensure a timely launch due to the ongoing travel restrictions amid the Covid-19 pandemic. It was delivered to the launch site on Saturday.
There is a launch window from July 14 to August 3, during which the probe is expected to take off.
"The Hope Probe represents a turning point for the Arab and Islamic world in the space sector. Reaching Mars is not only a scientific goal, it sends a message to our Arab youth that we are capable and that hope transcends the distance between earth and the skies," Sheikh Mohammed said on Saturday.
"Despite tough global travel conditions, our engineers are working according to schedule to complete the region’s top space science project. The probe was developed in less than 6 years, instead of 10, and at half the cost. We aim to launch in July, according to plan."
Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences, was on hand at Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre to see the probe off.
"Thank you to the specialised team that accompanied the probe from the UAE to Japan, and thank all parties and teams in the Emirates government for their efforts, and thanks to the engineers and specialists who are now at the launch site, who will work during the next 80 days to prepare the probe for launch," she said on Twitter on Saturday.
During normal times, engineers and a spacecraft are expected to reach the launch site 40 days before the take off.
However, in the current circumstances, Hope was sent earlier to ensure a smooth and uninterrupted preparation for the launch.
It will take seven to nine months for Hope to reach the desired Martian orbit and its arrival is meant to coincide with UAE’s 50th anniversary.
"The Emirates Mars Mission's (EMM) Hope spacecraft has already been delivered to Japan, and is planned to be delivered to the Tanegashima Space Centre soon," Mitsu Ikeya, a corporate communications officer at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries – the launch service provider for the probe – told The National.
“The preparation is continuously going on with minimal impact from the Covid-19.”
Omran Al Sharaf, the project manager of EMM, had addressed the 38th e-meeting of Nasa’s Mars Exploration Programme Analysis Group on April 17.
It was revealed then that a small team of Emirati engineers had left for Japan so they could prepare for the launch once the probe arrives.
They spent 15 days in mandatory quarantine.
Special flights and visas for them were arranged as entry for foreign travellers is currently restricted in Japan and all outbound flights have been suspended in the UAE.
Hope has been built by a team of 150 Emirati engineers, researchers and scientists at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and in collaboration with three US universities.
The project is funded by the UAE Space Agency.
If successfully placed in the Martian orbit, it will be the first orbiter to get a global view of the Red Planet due to high-altitude positioning.
The objective of the mission is to study the upper and lower atmosphere of the planet.
Developed in the US, the probe arrived in the UAE a couple of months ago and was kept at MBRSC’s clean room.
It went through a series of critical tests, including a decontamination, installation and testing of the solar panels and shock tests.
This will be the second time the UAE launches a mission from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre.
KhalifaSat, the first 100 per cent Emirati-built satellite, was launched from the centre in 2018.
KhalifaSat was sent to Japan 40 days before it took off on October 29.
Mars missions from other countries are also trying to ensure a timely launch.
Nasa’s Mars 2020 will be launching this July from Florida. China also plans to launch its Mars orbiter this summer.