Space: Al-Amal, the first Arab space probe, is on its way to Mars
Sylvie Claire / July 21, 2020
The Emirati probe "Al-Amal" (Hope), the first Arab interplanetary mission, was launched on Monday successfully from Japan, on its way to the orbit of Mars, of which it will provide images to better understand its atmosphere and climate.
The take-off of this unmanned spacecraft, broadcast online and live, took place as planned from the Tanegashima Space Center (southwestern Japan) at 6:58 a.m. local time (Sunday 9:58 p.m. GMT), after two postponements last week. due to bad weather.
Almost an hour after takeoff, applause resounded in the Japanese control room when the probe separated from its H-IIA number 42 launcher from the Japanese company Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
The take-off was also experienced with pride and emotion in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world, had symbolically projected a ten-second countdown on its huge facade before takeoff.
"This mission is a milestone for the UAE and its region," Yousuf Hamad Al Shaibani, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) in Dubai, said at a press conference in Japan after the launch.
This project "has already inspired millions of young people" in the Arab world to "dream big and work hard to achieve what seems impossible", he added.
Al-Amal sends "a message of pride, hope and peace in the Arab world," the UAE government also commented on Twitter. "We are returning to the golden age of Arab and Islamic discoveries ».
Unpublished images hoped for
The probe is expected to start orbiting Mars by February 2021, on the 50th anniversary of the unification of the seven principalities that make up the United Arab Emirates.
This mission is to study the atmosphere of Mars to "provide a first comprehensive understanding" of its climatic variations over an entire year, recalled Sarah al-Amiri, UAE Minister of Advanced Technologies and deputy director of the project, who was also present at the Japan at time of launch.
From September 2021, Al-Amal must indeed begin to deliver images of the red planet from its orbit for an entire Martian year, or 687 Earth days.
Better known for their immense reserves of oil and natural gas, their skyscrapers and their taste for luxury, the United Arab Emirates aspire to become a major player in the field of science and technology.
Last September, Hazza al-Mansouri became the first Emirati to be sent into space, alongside a three-member crew aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. The astronaut is also the first Arab citizen to visit the International Space Station (ISS).
The ambitions of the wealthy Gulf State go even further as it plans to establish a human colony on Mars within less than a century.
In order to prepare for it, he plans to create a gigantic "scientific city" in the desert on the outskirts of Dubai, to simulate Martian conditions and develop the technology necessary to colonize the red planet.
Rush to MarsThe Emirati probe is inaugurating a veritable rush to Mars this summer, since two other unmanned missions, one Chinese, the other American, must soon leave for this planet due to a favorable firing window from Earth.
So far only the United States, India, Russia and the European Space Agency have successfully placed probes around Mars.
And only the Americans managed to land intact robots there: four landers (fixed), and four mobile devices called rovers (Pathfinder, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity, the only one still active).
The United States intends to send this summer its most sophisticated Mars rover to date, "Perseverance", which will attempt to unearth evidence that microbes lived on this planet three and a half billion years ago.
China is also preparing to ship a probe and a small remote-controlled robot to Mars by the end of July, under the mission name "Tianwen-1 ».
Credit : RTBF