UAE probe approaches Mars orbit on first Arab interplanetary mission [dpa, Berlin]

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Feb. 8—CAIRO — The United Arab Emirates’ Hope space probe is due to arrive at Mars on Tuesday to study the Red Planet’s atmosphere, marking the first Arab interplanetary mission.

Launched from Japan in July, the uncrewed Hope spacecraft — or Amal in Arabic — is set to enter Mars orbit, becoming the first of three space expeditions expected to reach Earth’s neighbour this month.

A day after Hope’s arrival, China’s Tianwen-1 orbiter and lander is due to reach Mars.

The rover is not scheduled to make its landing attempt until around May. If successful, China will become the second country to land and operate a rover on Mars after the United States.

US space agency NASA’s latest rover, Perseverance, is scheduled to descend through the Martian atmosphere on February 18.

The launch of the Emirati spacecraft and its imminent arrival to Mars has unleashed a surge of national pride.

“The Hope Probe is nearing Mars. Congratulations to everyone on the occasion of the historic Emirati Mission to Mars,” Mohammed bin Zayed, the UAE’s de facto ruler, tweeted recently.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the formation of the oil-rich country, which is a federation of seven emirates, including Dubai.

Dubai’s ruler Mohammed bin Rashid, who also serves as the UAE vice president, described the orbiter’s mission in inspirational terms.

“Even before reaching its orbit, the Emirates Mars Mission’s Hope probe has succeeded in instilling a new culture in the hearts and minds of this nation’s men and women,” he said in November.

He added that this culture prioritizes science in “shaping our future and reiterates our nation’s limitless ambitions.”

The probe is expected to spend two years in orbit, capturing images and studying the planet’s atmosphere and changing seasons. The data will be shared with the international scientific community.

The UAE has already unveiled an ambitious space programme, which includes building a human settlement on the Red Planet by the year 2117.

Last September, the country announced it was launching a new project to explore the moon and that it plans to land an unmanned spacecraft on it in 2024.

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