الأمل (Al Amal, Arabic for hope) is on the way to Mars. The satellite was launched on a Mitsubishi rocket from Japan shortly before midnight. Al Amal is the United Arab Emirates’ first interplanetary mission (VAEVAE). In February, the satellite is expected to turn into an elliptical orbit and later observe the weather on Mars.
The Arab researchers are interested in both weather changes during the day and the seasons. The information gathered should help to gain a better understanding of the Martian atmosphere. For this purpose, the data should also be freely accessible to scientists from other countries. In addition, Al Amal is said to send high-resolution images of the Martian surface.
Fast and cheap
What is impressive about the UAE’s mission is that it was only commissioned by the government in 2014 and should not cost more than $ 200 million. In addition, delays were not an option: Al Amal is said to be in service on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the state in December 2021. Earth and Mars must come close together for the rocket launch, which is only the case every 26 months.
Therefore, Al Amal had to start in summer 2020. To achieve this, the UAE worked with US universities and the Japanese space agency JAXA. The satellite was built at Boulder at the University of Colorado, launched from Tane Island in southern Japan. The target in Mars orbit is very small. If Al Amal can get there, the UAE will be by far the smallest country with its own mission to Mars.
Rush hour traffic in February
The current rapprochement between Earth and Mars explains why the People’s Republic of China (Tianwen-1, 天 問) and the United States of America (Perseverance) would also like to launch Mars missions in the next few weeks. All three missions are scheduled to reach Mars in February. If this succeeds, Mars fans will have a dense program.
Tianwen-1 (Heaven Question 1) is due to go on tour this week. On board are not only a Mars satellite, but also a landing device with a ground vehicle. Perseverance (perseverance, persistence) is a further development of the NASA rover Curiosity and also has a helicopter called Ingenuity (ingenuity, ingenuity) on board. The launch is scheduled for July 30 from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The mission budget is more than ten times that of Al-Amals.