express– The Emirates Mars Mission, aiming to make the UAE only the fifth nation to ever reach the Red Planet, will enter this desolate world’s orbit at 3.57pm GMT on Tuesday, February 9. But having successfully navigating its seven-month-long and 115.5 million mile (186 million km) journey to Earth’s neighbour, the Emirates Mars Mission’s Hope Probe is now fast-approaching the historic voyage’s most critical element. This involves slowing the spacecraft from its 75,000mph (121,000kmh) cruising speed to something nearer to 11,000mph (18,000kmh).
A UAE statement said: “To put it a little more simply – it’s a bit like strapping six A380 engines to a car and firing them at full power, before pulling the brakes.”
If all goes according to plan, Hope’s primary mission is to focus on atmospheric dynamics. The unmanned probe will explore the atmosphere of Mars globally on both daily and seasonal timescales – something never-before accomplished by any Mars mission.
The second main scientific objective is to build a more complete understanding of other planets’ atmospheres, such as ours, as Hope finally supplying a comparative sample.
Ahead of the countdown to this complex Mars Orbital Insertion (MOI), the mission heads have explained the project’s purpose and outlined its objectives.
Omran Sharaf, Emirates Mars Mission Project Director revealed there are distinct “scientific” objectives and “strategic” objectives for the Hope Probe mission, once it passes its “hardcore” preparation phase.
He told Express.co.uk: “This mission will be studying the relationship between the upper layer and the lower layer of the Martian atmosphere at different times of the day and different seasons, so we will have a holistic view.
“For the first time, the scientific committee around the world will get a holistic view of the Martian atmosphere at different times of the day at different seasons, and also monitoring the scales of hydrogen and oxygen.”
He added a secondary – but no less important – objective is the scientific legacy Hope will leave behind.
He said: “One of the main objectives was used to inspire Emirati youth to go into STEM, to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and all these areas.
“The UAE believes this is the future, whether it’s related to the future of our economy, whether it’s about addressing our national challenges, such as food and water resources.
“The UAE government believes having a strong science base and advanced science and technology sector to serve or achieve these goals is critical for the future of the UAE and also for the region.
“So it wanted to use this mission as a catalyst to see a disruptive change in multiple sectors, and also in the mindset of young Emiratis.
“We wanted to see a big change in academic sector, and a disruptive change in the industrial sector and in the curriculums and the ecosystem in the UAE, so, it looked at Mars as a catalyst for that change
That’s why we always refer to this mission as a ‘national’ project rather than a ‘space sector’ project.”
He added one of the main goals set by UAE’s federal government for the program was to get a probe to Mars by the Emirates’ 50th anniversary in 2021.
Mr Sharaf said: “This mission was announced in 2014, so literally, we had six years to deliver the mission, almost half the duration of what other nations would require.
“And the idea was to come up with an innovative and creative approach of executing such different missions with a very limited budget and delivered within that budget.
“The reason why the government wanted to do it was to show the rest of the world how we can do things differently if we leverage on collaboration, or knowledge transfer, rather than starting from scratch.
“At the same time it said, ‘build it don’t buy it’ – it was very clear we needed to build as a team, there’s a risk with it – however, that’s part of the story we’re trying to have and the experience we’re trying to gain – to escape our comfort zone start building things differently.”
Her Excellency Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and Emirates Mars Mission Science Lead, added the project has important ramifications for our planet.
She told Express.co.uk: “In the larger scale things, this helps us understand how various systems or across different planets affect climate change and it provides us with a better understanding of how Earth transforms with time, both from a natural perspective and also from a perspective of evolution due to climate change, and due to weather changes.”
However, she added “that is only one side of the story”, as the project is hoped to have a long-standing legacy on the country’s economy.
The UAE Minister of State for Advanced Science said: “This mission provides us with a mechanism by which we’re able to take on higher risks than usual for normal programs.
“Our engineers are capable of working on design and development of complex autonomous systems, which is a fundamental requirement for newer industries based on technology.
“It’s the meshing between scientists and engineers working together, so it gives you a different value from a typical customer-engineer relationship and designing a product and service, that provides us from perspective of a nation building and building of capabilities, a mechanism by which we’re able to stimulate the development of various capabilities, both in engineering and in science, and also create the right impact across academia and with industry.
“And the other effect that you get that we know that space provides – space is a limitless frontier, and it provides – especially to the youth – a view of what is possible.
“So you’re expanding the realm of possibility for your youth. And you’re sending a very strong signal that technology and science is very important for diversifying our economy.
“And we are committed to developing know-how and expertise and experience in this area.”