The UAE’s Hope probe will soon perform the first of two manoeuvres to get closer to its science orbit around Mars.
The spacecraft, which reached the Red Planet on February 9, will begin its mission of collecting atmospheric data once it enters the target orbit in April.
On March 23, at 1am Gulf Standard Time, the probe will fire its thrusters for eight to nine minutes to correct its positioning.
For the past few weeks, Hope has been travelling as close as 1,063 kilometres to Mars’ planetary surface and as far away as 42,461 km.
The goal is to reach an elliptical science orbit of 20,000 km to 43,000 km, where it can then spend two years gathering data.
“Our Mars orbit insertion was highly successful and precisely targeted and this has allowed us to plan a reduction in transition to science manoeuvres, and also to move to our science orbit ahead of schedule,” said Omran Sharaf, team leader of the mission.
“We will commence science data gathering earlier in April than we had originally planned, and I think it’s fair to say there is huge excitement now in our science team and among Mars scientists around the world.”
The strategic orbital placement will allow the spacecraft to complete one full circle around the planet every 55 hours and capture a full planetary data sample every nine days.
Hope’s three scientific instruments, the Emirates eXploration Imager (EXI) – a high-resolution camera and an ultraviolet and infrared spectrometer, will capture data.
Several high-resolution, infrared and ultraviolet photos were released earlier this month that measured gases present in the Martian atmosphere.
Hope will study why gases crucial to life are escaping from the atmosphere. It will also trace movement of energy through the atmosphere and the planet’s weather dynamics.
The last manoeuvre before it enters its science orbit is scheduled for April 6.
All images and science data gathered by the UAE Mars Mission are being uploaded online.