The first Arab space mission to Mars, an unmanned probe dubbed "Hope", blasted off from Japan on Monday on a mission to reveal more about the atmosphere of the Red Planet.
Hope will now fly through space until it reaches its orbit around Mars in about seven months.
The Hope probe is expected to make some significant new discoveries while at Mars.
The Hope spacecraft is equipped with three instruments - the Emirates Exploration Imager (EXI), the Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EMUS), and the Emirates Mars InfraRed Spectrometer (EMIRS).
The Emirati Hope (Amal) orbiter separated from the Mitsubishi H-IIA rocket and is heading for Mars, which it is scheduled to reach in February. Interplanetary missions are no joke; in any and all conditions, are an expensive, time-consuming affair that requires a lot of planning. Learning more about the weather on Mars, it's incredible dust storms, and the changes that are still happening to its atmosphere could help inform future missions, including crewed efforts to set up temporary (or perhaps permanent?) scientific facilities on the planet.
"It's like a three-way race to Mars this year and the UAE is headed to be the first country to reach Mars before United States and China", Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, was quoted as saying by the Gulf News.
The UAE "was attempting something only the US, Russia, Europe and India have succeeded in doing", the BBC said.
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"Hope" - or Al-Amal in Arabic - has been a source of great pride in the UAE, a newcomer to the world of space.
The National Space Programme, which was launched in 2017, has plans to establish settlements on the planet by 2117.
Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for Digital Economy, Artificial Intelligence and Remote Working System, said COVID-19 was the "biggest" hurdle that the Emirates Mars Mission team had to overcome. It is set to follow up on NASA's Maven orbiter sent to Mars in 2014 to study how it went from a warm, wet world that may have harbored microbial life during its first billion years, to the cold, barren place of today.
Unlike the other two Mars missions slated to launch this year - Tianwen-1 from China and Mars 2020 from The US - Mission Hope has no intentions of landing on the Red Planet.
The H-2A rocket lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan at 5:58 p.m. The U.S. plans to send a rover named Perseverance to search for signs of ancient life and collect rock and soil samples for return to Earth. That mission is scheduled to launch on July 23rd. China aims to explore Mars with an orbiter and rover to study the planet's surface, and search for water and ice.
Japan has its own Mars mission planned in 2024.