The Arab world will launch its first mission to Mars in July 2020, the chair of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Space Agency, Ahmad Al Falasi, has said.
The UAE’s Hope probe will lift off from Japan and should reach Mars at the end of the following year, in time for the 50th anniversary of the emirates’ independence. It will be the first planetary-science mission from the Arab world.
The mission’s goals include understanding why Mars is losing its atmosphere by tracking the escape of hydrogen and oxygen, and building a bigger picture of the changing Martian atmosphere. In April, officials at the space agency said that 85% of the probe had been completed.
Al Falasi was speaking last month, one week after a separate UAE mission, the Falcon Eye-1 Earth observation satellite, failed to launch. “We chose difficult missions because it is in difficult missions that skills are shaped,” he told the UAE English-language daily newspaper, The National.
Falcon Eye-1, a project of the UAE’s armed forces that is designed for military and commercial applications, blasted off on 10 July from French Guiana, on board a Vega rocket built by aeronautics firm Arianespace in Évry, France. The rocket veered off its course two minutes after launch and lost contact with mission control four minutes later. It is Vega’s first failure, after 14 successful launches since its introduction in 2012. Arianespace and the European Space Agency have begun an investigation. The UAE’s armed forces are preparing to launch Falcon Eye-2.