The United Arab Emirates (UAE) space agency announced Tuesday that its unmanned Mars probe has arrived at the red planet and successfully entered orbit.
The Emirates Mars Mission – known as the Amal, or Hope Probe – announced the arrival from its official Twitter account.
“Success! Contact with #HopeProbe has been established again. The Mars Orbit Insertion is now complete,” the tweet said.
The probe’s successful drop into orbit makes the UAE the fifth nation in the world to reach the red planet and the first in the Arab world.
Ground controllers at the UAE’s space center in Dubai rose to their feet and applauded when word came that the craft had reached the end of its nearly seven-month, 482-million-meter journey (300 million miles) and had begun circling Mars, where it will gather detailed data on the planet’s atmosphere.
The probe, along with its three scientific instruments, is expected to create the first complete portrait of the Martian atmosphere. The instruments will collect different data points on the atmosphere to also gauge seasonal and daily change.
The orbiter fired its main engines for 27 minutes in an intricate maneuver that slowed the craft enough for it to be captured by Mars’ gravity. It then took a nail-biting 15 minutes or so for the signal confirming success to reach Earth.
Two more unmanned spacecraft from the United States and China are following close behind, set to arrive on Mars over the next several days.
A combination orbiter and lander from China is scheduled to reach the planet on Wednesday. It will circle Mars until the rover separates and attempts to land on the surface in May to look for signs of ancient life.
A rover from the U.S. named Perseverance is scheduled to land on the planet February 18. It will be the first leg in a decadelong U.S.-European project to bring Mars rocks back to Earth to be examined for evidence the planet once harbored microscopic life.