Emirates Mars Mission: Hope spacecraft enters orbit
February 10, 2021 8:46 am
The United Arab Emirates is celebrating its first mission at Mars.
It has put a probe called Hope in orbit around the planet, making it only the fifth spacefaring entity to do so after the US, the Soviet Union, Europe and India.
The spacecraft, which left Earth seven months ago, had to make a braking manoeuvre to be sure of being captured by Mars’ gravity.
UAE scientists can now look forward to studying the planet’s atmosphere.
Their satellite carries three instruments that will observe, among other targets, how neutral atoms of hydrogen and oxygen – remnants from Mars’ once abundant water – leak into space.
In the process, Hope will return spectacular, high-resolution, full-disk images of the planet.
Tuesday marked the most critical phase in the mission.
Hope had been approaching Mars at over 120,000km/h (relative to the Sun) and needed to execute a precise 27-minute burn on its braking engines to scrub some of that speed or risk skipping off into ever deeper space.
The manoeuvre, performed by six thrusters on the probe, commenced at about 19:30 GST (15:30 GMT), with confirmation received at Earth some 11 minutes later – the delay being the time it took for radio signals to traverse the 190-million-km separation between Mars and Earth.