Space and Aviation

Three New Missions To Mars Reaching The Orbit Starting On Feb 9, Making Young Nation UAE Entry Into Super Club Of Deep Space Exploration

It appears this February is going to be more about red – not just Valentine’s romantic red but Martian red too as the UAE’s Hope, China’s Tianwen-1 and NASA’s Perseverance, which all departed Earth last July, are reaching Mars this February.

The UAE’s Hope Mission

The whole UAE watches curiously as its first ever interplanetary mission – Hope is closing towards Mars. Hope (Al Amal in Arabic) is expected to enter Mars’ orbit on Tuesday, February 9

The UAE has already started celebrating the mission by lighting up landmarks in the red colour of Mars across the country at night. February 9, 2021 has already become a huge day for the country though it is still a future. Tomorrow at 7:42 pm local time, the UAE’s Hope probe is expected to conduct the most crucial part of the mission – the Mars Orbital Insertion, simply it means the spacecraft is going to reach the orbit of the Red Planet.

The insertion process, described as “most critical and complex” manoeuvre, will take almost half an hour which is going to be a nail-biting moment to the Emirati people and also a time to have faith. In this half an hour time, the probe will operate on an auto mode and the scientist crew will have nothing to do other than watch and wait. If the operation is successful, the United Arab Emirates will become the fifth nation or entity, following the US, India, the former Soviet Union and the European Space Agency,  to ever reach the Martian orbit. This historic feat would time perfectly to mark the 50th anniversary of the country.

The Hope probe set off on July 19, 2020, from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan when the Earth and Mars were nearest to each other. 

What will Hope Probe do on Mars?

Hope will orbit the Red Planet for at least one Martian year (687 days) studying the Martian atmosphere. The probe consists of three scientific instruments to analyse the atmosphere on Mars and evaluate its seasonal and daily changes. 

Hessa Rashid Al Matroushi, Hope Probe Deputy Project Manager — Science, said the mission “will provide a complete view of the Mars atmosphere and will allow scientists to study the interaction of different layers of the atmosphere and how these change at different times of a day and year. This will help us answer the long-standing question of how gas escapes from the Martian atmosphere and floats away into space”.

China’s Tianwen-1

China’s Tianwen-1 (which in Chinese means “Questions to Heaven”) is set to enter Martian orbit on February 10, just a day after the Hope probe. 

Tianwen-1, which was launched on July 22, 2020, from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island, consists of a Mars orbiter, a lander and a solar-powered rover. The probe will study Mars’ soil and atmosphere, take photos, chart maps and also check for signs of past life. 

The spacecraft has already sent back its first black and white photograph of the Red Planet that revealed geological features such as the Schiaparelli crater and the Valles Marineris on the surface of the planet. 

This venture is not China’s first attempt to get to Mars. In 2011, its mission with Russia concluded prematurely when the launch failed. 

A successful venture this time with Tianwen-1 would mean another historic milestone for China in just eight weeks. On December 17, 2020, China’s Chang’e 5 mission made a successful journey back to its home with lunar rock samples

NASA’s Perseverance

NASA’s Perseverance, also known as “Percy”, is said to land on the Martian surface on February 18. The rover was launched on July 30, 2020 from the Florida coast. 

Perseverance, unlike Hope, is looking forward to landing on the surface of Mars. If everything goes well, it will be the fifth rover to complete the venture since 1997. So far all the rovers that have landed on Mars are American. 

NASA aims to investigate ancient microbial life on the planet by collecting rock samples on the planet. The mission will also attempt to fly a helicopter-drone of almost 2kg on a foreign planet for the first time. 

Perseverance, which is set to spend at least two years on Mars, weighs a metric tonne and has 19 cameras and two microphones. Scientists hope the rover will be the first one ever to record sound on Mars.

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