UAE's Mars Hope probe 'is safe and will begin sending key science data in two months'

First close-up image taken by spacecraft due in a week, says mission director

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The UAE's Hope probe is another step closer to begin capturing data from Mars after it moved into the transfer orbit.

On Tuesday, Hope was successfully placed in the planet's capture orbit. To collect data on the Red Planet, it must move into the science orbit but first pass through the transfer orbit – where the probe is now.

The spacecraft will spend two months in the transfer orbit as mission control at Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre carries out a series of rigorous tests to ensure Hope's subsystems and instruments are working.

Omran Sharaf, Mars mission director, said the spacecraft will beam back the first image in a week.

UAE Mars mission: Hope probe's tasks. Roy Cooper / The National
UAE Mars mission: Hope probe's tasks. Roy Cooper / The National

A day after UAE made history by becoming the fifth country to reach Mars, Mr Sharaf described the tense orbit entry stage as nerve-racking.

He said support from the community helped motivate the team, who had spent the past six years working hard to ensure its success.

“Yesterday was one of the riskiest phases and we managed to succeed that stage – and by that I mean Emiratis and residents – whether you work in the space sector or not,” he said.

“The mission tested how much the team can handle and also us, as a society, on how we can deal with such difficult tasks. What was special was seeing ... all of the UAE community supporting this mission and that they understood, if the mission failed, we had already achieved success.”

Tuesday's successful orbit insertion came six years after the mission's inception, and after the probe had travelled through space for seven months. Hope defied a 50 per cent risk of failure to enter Mars orbit.

It will spend two years orbiting the planet and sending back data to fill a gap in research and provide the world with more information about Mars.

The probe will study how energy moves through the atmosphere during the day and through the seasons of the 687-day Mars year.