by Eddie Rayner
Blast off!

The UAE recently launched its Mars-bound Hope Probe, the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission, blasting off from the Tanegashima Space Centre, Japan.

The Al Amal probe, as it is called in Arabic, is expected to reach Mars by February 2021, staying in orbit for a Martian year (equivalent to 687 days on Earth) to gather data about the atmosphere. After the launch, Hope Mars Mission Centre in Dubai tweeted: “It’s an honour to be part of the global efforts to explore deep space. The Hope Probe is the culmination of every single step that humans have taken throughout history to explore the unknown depths of space.”

The Hope Probe is the UAE’s most ambitious step in its growing space sector, having launched satellites in 2009 and 2013. These were developed with South Korean partners, but then the UAE established its own space agency in 2014, with one of its aims being a colony on Mars by 2117.

The nation’s space programme has frequently been spoken of as a catalyst for its mushrooming STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) sector.

It should be noted, too, that the UAE took just two years to get the Hope Probe on its way, an incredible feat when you consider that most Mars missions take 10 to 12 years.

NASA tweeted its congratulations after Hope’s successful launch, saying: “I wish you a successful journey and look forward to the time when we are both exploring Mars … I cannot wait to join you on the journey!” The United States and China have also embarked on Mars missions this summer, with Perseverance Rover and Tianwen 1.

“The data gathered by the probe will add a new dimension to human knowledge,” said Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, on Twitter. “This is our latest contribution to the world.”