The Emirati probe Al-Amal (Hope), the first Arab space mission to the planet Mars, lifted off on Monday from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan after two postponements last week due to bad weather.
“H-IIA launcher number 42 carrying the Emirates’ Hope mission to Mars lifted off at 6:58 a.m. and 14 seconds Japanese time” (Sunday at 5:58 p.m. EDT), according to a statement by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the Japanese launch company, which was broadcast live online.
Five minutes after its departure under bright skies, the rocket carrying the probe released its first thrusters and was on course.
Enthusiasm reigned at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), which led the Emirates’ Mars project, on which some 450 people worked, more than half of them Emiratis.
Sarah al-Amiri, deputy director of the project and also minister of advanced technology of the Emirates, expressed her “indescribable feeling” at the moment of take-off. “”This is the future of the United Arab Emirates,” she told Dubai TV.
“We are waiting for the moment of separation” of the probe and the launcher “and the first signal” from Al-Amal, the official added.
The Al-Amal project is a source of great pride in the Emirates. Al-Amal sends “a message of pride, hope and peace in the Arab world,” the UAE government said on Twitter. “We are returning to the golden age of Arab and Islamic discoveries.”
Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, symbolically projected a 10-second countdown on its façade several hours before takeoff.
The unmanned spacecraft is expected to begin orbiting Mars by February 2021, marking the 50th anniversary of the unification of the seven principalities that make up the United Arab Emirates.
Start of the race to Mars
Once there, the probe must circumnavigate the Red Planet for an entire Martian year of 687 Earth days. The goal is to provide a complete and unprecedented picture of the weather dynamics in Mars’ atmosphere.
The Emirati program inaugurates a real rush to Mars this summer, as two other unmanned missions, one Chinese and one American, are soon to leave for the planet.
Known for its immense oil and natural gas reserves, skyscrapers and taste for luxury, the United Arab Emirates aims to become a major player in the field of science and technology.