The United Arab Emirates’ ‘Hope’ probe has sent back its first image of Mars, capturing the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons.
The national space agency made the announcement on Sunday, days after the spacecraft successfully entered the Red Planet’s orbit.
The image will be followed by many similar such views of Mars as the spacecraft studies the planet’s weather and climate systems.
A handout picture provided on February 14, 2021 by the United Arab Emirates Space Agency showing the Olympus Mons, the highest volcano on Mars, and the Tharsis Montes, three volcanoes named (top to bottom) Ascraeus Mons, Pavonis Mons and Arsia Mons
The picture ‘captured the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons, emerging into the early morning sunlight,’ it said in a statement.
The image was taken from an altitude of 15,300 miles above the Martian surface on Wednesday, a day after the probe entered Mars’ orbit.
The picture shows the north pole of Mars in the upper left of the image. In the centre of the image, emerging into the early morning sunlight, is Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the Solar System.
The Tharsis Montes, three volcanoes named Ascraeus Mons, Pavonis Mons and Arsia Mons, are also visible.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, UAE prime minister and Dubai’s ruler, shared the coloured image on Twitter.
‘The first picture of Mars captured by the first-ever Arab probe in history,’ he wrote.
The mission is designed to reveal the secrets of Martian weather, but the UAE also wants it to serve as an inspiration for the region’s youth.
Named Hope, the probe started the complex process of entering Martian orbit at just before 16:00 GMT – following a 500 million km race from Earth
Illustration provided by Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre depicts the United Arab Emirates’ Hope Mars probe during its approach
Hope became the first of three spacecraft to arrive at the Red Planet this month after China and the US also launched missions in July, taking advantage of a period when the Earth and Mars are nearest.
The UAE’s venture is also timed to mark the 50th anniversary of the unification of the nation’s seven emirates.
‘Hope’ will orbit the Red Planet for at least one Martian year, or 687 days, using three scientific instruments to monitor the Martian atmosphere.
It is expected to begin transmitting more information back to Earth in September 2021, with the data available for scientists around the world to study.
The United Arab Emirates became the first Arab nation and only the fifth nation overall to place a spaceship in orbit around Mars on Tuesday.
The country’s space probe, called Hope, officially entered Mars orbit at around 16:15 GMT on Tuesday, marking the completion of a 493 million km journey from Earth.
It arrived ahead of two other spacecraft from NASA and China – although unlike those crafts, Hope is an orbiter probe and won’t be landing on the planet’s surface.
On the day the UAE Hope probe took this first image, the Chinese Tianwen-1 orbiter arrived at Mars.
It arrived ahead of NASA and Chinese spaceships, – but unlike those crafts, this one won’t be landing as it is an orbiter probe.
‘Success! Contact with #HopeProbe has been established again. The Mars Orbit Insertion is now complete,’ the Hope Mars Mission Twitter account posted.
Hope started the complex process of entering Martian orbit on Tuesday just before 16:00 GMT – seven months after its blast-off from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center on July 19 last year.
This ‘most critical and complex’ manoeuvre involved Hope firing its engines and slowing itself down sufficiently to be captured by the gravity of the Red Planet – known as the fuel burn and ‘Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI)’ phase.
By firing Hope’s engines for 27 minutes, the fuel burn reduced the speed of Hope from more than 121,000 km an hour to approximately 18,000 km an hour as it entered the ‘capture orbit’ and disappeared behind Mars’ dark side.
The UAE Mars Hope satellite launched from Japan on July 19 and entered Mars’ orbit on February 9. It will monitor the weather on the Red Planet
Signals from the spacecraft, confirming a successful orbital insertion, arrived 11 minutes later at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, Dubai.
Hope re-emerged from the planet’s shadow, and contact was restored on schedule after a nervy wait, sparking jubilant celebrations in the city.
Hope will remain in this phase for about two months, during which further testing of its instrumentation will take place, until it is ready to enter the ‘science’ orbit – when its data collection work begins.
In science orbit, it will be in an especially high position – 13,670 miles by 27,340 miles above the Martian surface – and provide regular updates on the Martian weather.
Pictured: People look to a big screen board displaying the arrival of the Hope Probe into Mars orbit at Burj Plaza — in front of the world’s tallest building — in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
People celebrated the arrival of the Hope Probe to Mars at Burj Plaza, in front of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, in the Gulf emirate of Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Pictured: Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is lit up in red with a slogan reading ‘Mission accomplished’ in Arabic on February 9, 2021 as the UAE’s ‘Al-Amal’ — Arabic for ‘Hope’ — probe successfully entered Mars’ orbit, making history as the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission
It will survey Mars’ atmosphere, around 95 per cent of which is made up of carbon dioxide, around the entire planet, at all times of day and in all seasons.
In science orbit, it will complete one orbit of the planet every 55 hours.
While it will be in daily contact with Earth during the capture orbit phase, in its science orbit, contacts will take place two to three times a week.
Each pass will be six to eight hours long, which is the only time the UAE team will have to download any data and send the probe any new updates or instructions.
MARS ORBITAL INSERTION: A COMPLICATED PROCESS
Entering Martian orbit isn’t an easy process, according to scientists.
The stresses on the spacecraft of all engines firing at once are far beyond those at launch
The probe fired its rockets to rapidly decelerate to achieve Mars Orbital Insertion (MOI).
During the MOI the spacecraft rotated to position for a deceleration burn of 27 minutes, and slowed down from its cruising speed of 121,000 km/h to 18,000 km/h.
The stresses on the spacecraft of all engines firing at once are far beyond those at launch.
It happened with a 20-odd-minute radio delay to Earth – so the probe had to manage on its own.
Omran Sharaf, Emirates Mars Mission (Hope Probe) project director, Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, said: ‘MOI was the most critical and dangerous part of our journey to Mars, exposing the Hope probe to stresses and pressures it has never before faced.
‘While we have spent six years designing, testing and retesting the system, there is no way to fully simulate the impacts of the deceleration and navigation required to achieve MOI autonomously.
‘With this enormous milestone achieved, we are now preparing to transition to our science orbit and commence science data gathering.’
Also known as Amal – which is Arabic for Hope – this is the first deep space mission for the Gulf nation, which has long-term ambitions for a Martian colony.
Hope will provide the first planet-wide picture of Mars’ weather system and climate throughout the Martian year, a UAE spokesperson said.
‘The data collected during this time will be open to scientists globally, contributing to humanity’s shared understanding of our second-closest planet.’
Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, said she hopes the mission will be in a position to share data by September.
‘One of our primary objectives is to ensure that we share the data as soon as we are comfortable, as a science team, that the data is usable by scientists and the data is correct.
‘We hope to release the data at the latest in the beginning of September, and it will be data from the capture orbit that has been captured around Mars, and also from the beginning of our science phase.’
She added: ‘A lot of what we’re hoping to discover from the data of this mission is new, and this is a highly complimentary mission to other missions so we truly hope that others’ missions around Mars will utilise also our data.
‘And there’s actually talks with a few teams, who have spacecrafts around Mars, to see how we can further collaborate and expand all of our science so analysis capabilities utilising more and more data.’
Hope is to be followed by the NASA Perseverance rover and the China Tianwen-1 rover-orbiter combination craft.
Unlike Hope, these craft will be searching for signs of ancient life on the Red Planet’s rusty red surface, which is thought to have once been Earth-like.
Tianwen-1 entered Mars orbit on Wednesday, February 10, but it will remain paired in orbit until May, when the rover separates to descend to the surface.
Once the rover gets to Mars, it will survey the composition, types of substance, geological structure and meteorological environment of the Martian surface, and look for signs of alien life.
China successfully launched Tianwen-1 on July 23 aboard a Long March 5 Y-4 carrier rocket from Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island province of Hainan, China.
Perseverance rover fires up its descent stage engines as it nears the Martian surface in this NASA illustration
Both the UAE and China are newcomers to Mars, where more than half of Earth’s emissaries have failed.
Perseverance is carrying seven instruments that will analyse samples from the surface, including an advanced panoramic camera, a ground-penetrating radar and an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer for analysis of chemical elements.
The NASA rover, which launched from Florida on July 30, will set the samples aside for retrieval by a fetch rover launching in 2026.
Under an elaborate multi-billion plan still being worked out by NASA and the European Space Agency, the geologic treasure would arrive on Earth in the early 2030s.
One of the biggest questions is whether life has existed beyond Earth, and Mars is a good place to start investigating, given that evidence points to it once being full of water, warmer and with a thicker atmosphere.
Future missions, including from the European Space Agency and Japan, will bring samples of Martian soil and rock back to the Earth for study.
SpaceX is planning to send an uncrewed mission to Mars using its Starship rocket by 2024 and with a crew by 2026.
There are currently six spacecraft operating around Mars – three from the US, two from Europe and one from India, but the UAE has made it seven with its mission.
THREE MISSIONS TO MARS IN THE SPACE OF 10 DAYS
There are three major missions bound for Mars in the space of just 10 days this month – the UAE’s Hope orbiter, China’s Tianwen-1 craft and NASA’s Perseverance rover.
The countries are taking advantage of a period when Earth and Mars are favourably aligned for a relatively short journey.
July 19: Hope (UAE)
The 3,000lb (1,350kg) craft (pictured) will complete one orbit every 55 hours for a total of one Martian year — 687 Earth days
– The 2,970-pound probe was built entirely within the Emirates, launched from Japan and will take seven months to reach the Red Planet.
– When the orbiter gets there in February 2021, it will stay in orbit for a whole Martian year – 687 days.
– Hope will not land on the Martian surface but take readings from the Red Planet’s atmosphere.
– Hope will help answer key questions about the Martian atmosphere and the loss of hydrogen and oxygen gases into space over the span of one Martian year – called a ‘sol’.
– Three instruments mounted on the probe will provide a picture of Mars’s atmosphere throughout the year, and all of the data gathered will be made widely available.
– This includes an infrared spectrometer to measure the lower atmosphere and temperature, a high-resolution imager to study the ozone and another to look at levels of hydrogen and oxygen up to 27,000 miles from the surface.
July 23: Tianwen-1
The Chinese space exploration authority introduced the nation’s first Mars rover Tianwen-1 (pictured) at a grand ceremony earlier this month. The rover measures just over six feet in height
– This robotic spacecraft consists of an orbiter (stationed in the atmosphere), a lander (stationary on the planet’s surface) and a rover (roaming the surface).
– The craft measures just over six feet in height (1.85m) and weighs 530 pounds (240kg).
– It will survey the composition, types of substance, geological structure and meteorological environment of the Martian surface.
– The solar-powered machine is designed to work on Mars for three Martian months, about 92 Earth days.
– It includes a geological camera, a multispectral camera, a subsurface detection radar, a surface composition detector, a surface magnetic field detector and a weather detector.
– A poem pondering on the stars and planets written over 2000 years ago was the inspiration for the name of China’s first exploration mission to Mars.
– Called Tianwen (天问), the poem was written by ancient Chinese literati and politician Qu Yuan (339-278BC), who lived in the Chu State (770-223BC).
July 30: Perseverance
NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover will pick up samples of rock and soil from the red planet, deposit them in tubes and leave them on the ground for a future mission to return them to Earth.
– NASA’s Perseverance rover is the heaviest payload yet to go to the Red Planet – at a car-sized 2,259 pounds (1,025kg).
The mission will seek signs of past microbial life on Mars and collect rock and soil samples for eventual return to Earth.
– The Mars Perseverance rover introduces a drill that can collect core samples of the most promising rocks and soils and set them aside in a ‘cache’ on the surface of Mars.
– The rover will travel using an ultraviolet laser to determine what minerals and compounds are present in the soil, based on the way the light scatters.
– The Mars 2020 rover, which was built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California., is now at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for final preparations.
– It launches to space on July 30 and is set to touch down on Mars in 12 months.
– It has a mission duration of 1 Mars year (668 sols or 687 Earth days) and will touch down on the planet’s Jezero crater on Mars in February 2021.