His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ruler of Dubai, unveiled plans, designs and goals for the Emirates Mars Mission initiative to launch Arab world’s first Mars probe in July 2020.
The probe named “Al Amal" (Hope) is expected to enter the Mars orbit in the first quarter of 2021, year when the UAE celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence from Great Britain. Implementation of all phases of the Emirates Mars Mission will be overseen by Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, an organization established in 2015 within the Emirates Institute for Advanced Science Technology (EIAST).
According to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Emirates Mars Mission will create mankind's first integrated model of the decaying Martian atmosphere. It will collect unique data on the Martian atmosphere and the dynamic connections among its layers and components.
After thousands of suggestions for the name of Mars probe, we decided to name the probe “Hope” as it sends a message of optimism to millions of young Arabs. Arab civilization once played a great role in contributing to human knowledge, and will play that role again. Emirates Mars Mission proves that nothing is impossible, that Arabs can compete with the greatest of nations in the race for knowledge. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai
The Emirates Mars Mission spacecraft will be a compact, hexagonal-shape spacecraft built from aluminum in a stiff but lightweight honeycomb structure and surfaced with a strong composite face-sheet. It will weigh approximately 1,500 kg including fuel, and measure 2.37 m wide by 2.90 m tall.
The Mars probe will be fitted with the following instuments:
- Imager – a digital camera that will send back high-resolution colour images;
- Infra-Red Spectrometer, which will examine temperature patterns, ice, water vapour and dust in Mars' atmosphere;
- Ultraviolet Spectrometer, which will study the upper atmosphere and traces of oxygen and hydrogen further out into space.
Mars probe will be equipped with four to six large 120-Newton thrusters for acceleration and braking, and 8 to 12 small 5-Newton thrusters for delicate maneuvering. Anticipated duration of the Mars exploration mission is 2 years, with an additional 2-year extension.
No details with regards to a launch vehicle that will place Mars probe into orbit in 2020, neither spaceport where the launch will take place, are specified on the official Emirates Mars Mission website.
Number of scientists and engineers that will take part in development of the Emirates Mars Mission amounted to 70 at the initial development phases and up to 150 by 2020. More than 200 academic and research institutions locally and globally will have access to the mission's data and findings.
Some of the mission's academic knowledge transfer partners include Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at University of Colorado, University of California Berkeley Space Sciences Lab, and Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration.
$5.45 billion has been invested by the UAE in its space sector to date. Four spacecraft, 2 Earth imaging (DubaiSat-1 and DubaiSat-2) and 2 communications (Yahsat Y1A and Yahsat Y1B) satellites has been launched, with another one, KhalifaSat-1 imaging spacecraft, expected for launch in 2018 as a secondary payload on a Japanese H-2II rocket.
The United Arab Emirates Space Agency (UAESA) was established in Novenber 2014, but it has already signed multiple agreements with established space powers. In April 2015 UAESA concluded a cooperation agreement with the French space agency, CNES, which includes joint work on the Emirates Mars Mission. Before that UAESA concluded bilateral space acts with Russia, Britain and Kazakhstan. In March representatives of the US and UAE governments met in Washington to discuss potential space cooperation.