Since arriving at Mars eight months ago, the Emirates Mars mission has quietly begun to deliver some interesting scientific data about the Martian atmosphere and its weather patterns.
The probe, named “Hope”, is in a relatively high orbit, varying from 20,000 to 43,000 km above Mars. This vantage point allows the spacecraft to see the entire hemisphere at a time. For much of this year, the Hope probe has been training its multi-band imager, infrared spectrometer and ultraviolet spectrometer on Mars to collect data about the planet’s atmosphere and the resulting weather conditions.
The project was financed by the United Arab Emirates, and the spacecraft was built in conjunction with several US-based universities, including the University of Colorado Boulder. The goal was to inspire young Emiratis to seek education in math and science, and to train some of them through the resulting collaboration. The investigation was launched in July 2020 on a Japanese rocket.
One goal of the mission was to freely share the resulting data, and as a result, the mission recently opened science data portal. Anyone can register to gain access to raw images and data collected by the investigation in the past, with new data sets being released every three months without any restrictions. The mission, the first Arab probe sent to Mars, is planned to operate for at least two years in orbit around the Red Planet.
The Hope Probe has already made some interesting discoveries. For example, scientists expected to observe a uniform distribution of oxygen throughout the atmosphere of Mars. Although the planet’s thin atmosphere is primarily composed of carbon dioxide, molecular oxygen is a trace gas. According to observations of oxygen in the upper atmosphere of the Hope probe, concentrations vary by more than 50 percent. Similar changes were observed in carbon monoxide.
Scientists are now working to understand these variations, which do not fit perfectly into existing models of the Martian atmosphere.
The probe is also closely monitoring the temperature on the surface of Mars, as if it were the first weather satellite to orbit around the Red Planet. Although there will be many considerations that determine the initial landing sites for humans on Mars – the lack of rocky outcrops and hazards will be the most important of them – understanding local weather conditions will also be a valuable tool for mission planners.
Following the success of its Mars mission, the United Arab Emirates Space Agency recently announced that it is planning a more ambitious probe that will perform a flyby of Venus in late 2020 and then between Mars and Jupiter. Will travel to the asteroid belt. There, the probe will observe seven asteroids before attempting to land on one of them in 2033.
For this mission, the country will again partner with US-based universities to develop spacecraft and further strengthen collaboration with educators in the Middle East.
“Our goal is clear: to accelerate the development of innovation and knowledge-based enterprises in the Emirate,” said Sarah bint Yusuf Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and Chair of the UAE Space Agency, in a statement. “This cannot be done in a steady state; it requires the pursuit of goals that go beyond imagination, belief, and rational or method.”