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UAE launches Arab world's first Mars probe, establishes communication with orbiter

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UAE launches Arab world's first Mars probe, establishes communication with orbiter

Being the first of the three big space launches happening this month, the United Arab Emirates' car-sized Hope probe successfully took off from southern Japan.

The Hope orbiter, carried by a Japanese rocket, had been scheduled to liftoff on July 14, but the launch was delayed twice due to bad weather. Once there it will study the Martian atmosphere, monitoring things like how much oxygen and hydrogen are lost to space over the course of one Mars year (a bit under two Earth years).

Hope is now set to reach Mars in February 2021, the year the UAE celebrates 50 years since its formation.

In the wee hours of the morning, at 3.28 am IST (1:58 a.m. UAE time) on 20 July 2020, Hope Probe or Amal-1 was finally launched from the Tanegashima Space Center, Japan.

Hope is a 1,350-kilogram satellite developed by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in the UAE.

At Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in Dubai, Emirati men in their traditional white kandora robes and women in their black abayas watched transfixed as the rocket lifted off.

According to the UAE, the mission will provide the first complete picture of the planet's atmosphere during different seasons.

The UAE is also expected to launch a mission to the Moon in 2022. "It's a huge step in terms of space exploration to have a nation like the UAE taking that giant leap to send a spacecraft to Mars", Astronomer Fred Watson said.

Development of Hope started in late 2013 as the next phase in the country's effort to grow its space capabilities, after development of a series of Earth observation spacecraft.

Omran Sharaf, the UAE Mars mission director, told journalists in Dubai that the probe was sending signals that would be analysed later but everything appeared good. And in September, it sent the first Emirati into space on a mission to the International Space Station. It has also set a goal to build a human colony on Mars by 2117.

Japan has long collaborated with the US and other partners in defence and space technology, and the resource-poor country has traditionally kept friendly ties with Middle Eastern countries.

Resource-poor Japan has traditionally kept friendly ties with Middle Eastern countries. It kicks off the first of three missions to the Red Planet this summer, with China and the U.S.to follow in the coming weeks.

Unlike the two other Mars ventures scheduled for this year, it will not land on the Red Planet, but instead orbit it for a whole Martian year, or 687 days. This launch is set for around July 23.

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