The United Arab Emirates has made history as the first Arab country to reach Mars.
The Emirates Mars mission named the Hope probe, reached the red planet at 7:42 p.m. Tuesday UAE time, and sent its signal back to Earth just over half an hour later. The ground control team at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai erupted in cheers.
“7 years of work crowned with success! The Hope Probe is now in Mars’ orbit. #ArabsToMars #HopeProbe,” the official Twitter account of the Hope Mars Mission tweeted shortly afterward, with the hashtag #ArabsToMars.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and ruler of the Emirate of Dubai also tweeted “Mission Accomplished.”
The operation had to be executed with flawless precision, and the stakes high — the current time period during which Earth is closest to the red planet occurs only once every two years.
This makes the UAE only the second country to ever successfully enter Mars’ orbit on its first try, despite attempts being made since the 1960s. The only other country to have done so is India.
Several governments and luminaries in the field expressed their congratulations, including the U.S. State Department, the Indian government, the U.K. Space Agency and celebrity scientist Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, tweeted, “Congratulations @HopeMarsMission on your safe arrival to Mars’ orbit! Your bold endeavor to explore the Red Planet will inspire many others to reach for the stars. We hope to join you at Mars soon with @NASAPersevere.“
The Hope probe is the first to complete its journey out of three Mars missions aiming to breach the planet’s orbit this year; NASA’s Perseverance rover and China’s Tianwen-1 mission also launched in July to take advantage of the period of proximity between Earth and Mars.
The Hope probe, a $200 million project called Al-Amal in Arabic, was launched on July 20 from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Station and has now culminated its journey to Earth’s neighbor. It will now spend one Martian year — equivalent to 687 days on Earth — studying and gathering data on the red planet’s atmosphere.
That time will enable it to create the first full map of the Martian atmosphere, with the help of three highly specialized instruments developed by the Emirati team: a highly sophisticated camera to photograph Mars and study its lower atmosphere, an ultraviolet spectrometer that will detect the planet’s levels of carbon monoxide and oxygen, and an infrared spectrometer that will measure Martian dust, ice clouds and water.
The year 2021 is also significant: It’s the 50th anniversary of the UAE’s formation as a country.