UAE’s Hope probe sends scientific data and hundreds of Mars images

Spacecraft will move into science orbit soon, when more valuable data will be collected

The UAE’s Hope probe sent a treasure trove of science data from Mars, including at least 825 images, since it began its orbit on February 9.

One of the images, showing the solar system’s largest known volcano, was shared by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, on Twitter on Tuesday.

The probe measuring the level of gases – such as hydrogen, oxygen and carbon monoxide – in the planet’s atmosphere.

The Mars mission team released graphs showing how thermal infrared energy emitted from the Martian surface interacts with the atmosphere. More data will be released once the probe moves into the science orbit.

“Olympus Mons … highest peak in our solar system. Almost three times the height of Mount Everest. Taken by Hope Probe at 13,000km above Mars surface,” Sheikh Hamdan wrote.

Olympus Mons is located in the Tharsis region of Mars and measures 642 kilometres in diameter, according to US space agency Nasa.

The spacecraft will soon move into its science orbit, with two course correction manoeuvres scheduled for March 22 and April 6.

“We have completed 21 orbits of Mars since we arrived at the Red planet on the evening of the 9th of February,” said Omran Al Sharaf, the Mars mission team leader.

Mars' science readings that showed gases present in Mars' atmosphere captured by Hope probe's ultraviolet spectrometer. Courtesy: Emirates Mars Mission
Mars' science readings that showed gases present in Mars' atmosphere captured by Hope probe's ultraviolet spectrometer. Courtesy: Emirates Mars Mission

“In that time, we’ve been busy calibrating the Hope probe’s three instruments, commissioning and testing the spacecraft’s instrumentation subsystems and using every opportunity to gather data while we’ve been in our capture orbit.”

During its orbit, the spacecraft travels close to the surface of Mars. It will get as close as 1,063 kilometres from the surface and swing away as far as 42,461km. The variation in distance is because of the unique elliptical orbit assigned for the mission.

The science team has received 30 gigabits of data to date. Hope collected the data using three scientific instruments – the exploration imager (high-resolution and radiation-tolerant camera), ultraviolet and infrared spectrometer.

“We have already amassed a library of some 280,000 spectra of Mars using the Emirates Mars Infrared Spectrometer alone,” said Hessa Al Matroushi, the mission's science leader.

“We have also been able to take a range of highly detailed images of the planet using our imager, helped by the fact that when we’re at our closest point in our orbit, we’re on the sunny side of Mars. We’re very excited indeed now to be moving to our science orbit and starting the flow of planetary data we aim to gather over the coming Martian year.”

The findings will help scientists learn why gases crucial to life are escaping from the planet’s atmosphere.

Updated: March 10, 2021 11:39 AM

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