A rocket carrying the unmanned spacecraft is expected to take off from Japan’s remote space center, Tanegashima, at 5:51 a.m. local time (2051 GMT Tuesday), although bad weather may delay takeoff later in a launch window that will continue until August 13.
The UAE project is one of three races to Mars, including Tianwen-1 from China and March 2020 from the United States, taking advantage of the period when Earth and Mars are closest: only 55 million km (34 million miles) from each other.
But unlike the other two companies, the UAE Mars probe will not land on the Red Planet.
“Hope” – or Al-Amal in Arabic – is expected to reach the orbit of Mars by February 2021, marking the 50th anniversary of the unification of the United Arab Emirates, an alliance of seven sheikhs.
Once there, he will circle the planet for an entire Martian year – 687 days.
The probe is expected to detach from the launch rocket about an hour after takeoff, when the UAE mission deputy project director Sarah al-Amiri said that the real excitement would begin.
“In my heart, I look forward to the first 24 hours after separation, and this is where we see the results of our work,” said Amiri, who is also Minister of State for Advanced Sciences.
“It is when we receive the signal for the first time, when we know that each part of the spacecraft is working, when the solar panels are deployed, when we reach our trajectory and we are heading for Mars”, a- she told AFP earlier this month.
Keiji Suzuki of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which carries the Hope spacecraft into space, said that with the expected thunderstorms, there was some doubt as to whether the launch would take place on time.
“The weather is getting worse,” he said during a briefing on Monday. “However, the current forecast is not for severe thunderstorms throughout, so our current assessment is that there are chances for a launch. ”
The United Arab Emirates – which is better known for its skyscrapers, palm-shaped islands and mega attractions – have pushed in recent years to expand its space sector.
While the objective of the Mars mission is to provide a complete picture of the dynamics of time in the atmosphere of the red planet and to pave the way for scientific breakthroughs, the probe is the basis of a much more objective big – the construction of a human settlement on Mars in the next 100 years.
The UAE also wants the project to be a source of inspiration for Arab youth, in a region too often ravaged by sectarian conflicts and economic crises.
Dubai has hired architects to imagine what a Martian city might look like and recreate it in its desert under the name of “Science City”, at a cost of around 500 million dirhams ($ 135 million).
And last September, Hazza al-Mansouri became the first Emirati in space, part of a three-member crew that took off from a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan, returning home after an eight-day mission during from which he became the first Arab to visit the International Space Station.
Several dozen probes – mostly American – have left for the Red Planet since the 1960s. Many have never gone so far or failed to land.
The desire to explore Mars marked until confirmation less than 10 years ago that water once flowed on its surface.
“What is unique about this mission is that for the first time, the scientific community around the world will have a holistic view of the Martian atmosphere at different times of the day and in different seasons,” the official said on Monday. of the mission project, Omran Sharaf.
“We have a strategy to contribute to the global effort to develop technologies and scientific work that will one day help us if humanity decides to put a human on Mars.”