The Emirates Mars Mission, the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation, is scheduled to reach Mars’ orbit this Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, at 7:41 a.m. PST.
The Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL) at the University of California, Berkeley, is a partner in the collaboration, having contributed science team members, mission systems engineering support, and the detector and associated electronics for one of the three scientific instruments on board: the Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrograph (EMUS).
A live broadcast of the event, referred to as a Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI), is available to the general public on http://www.emm.ae/live beginning at 6 a.m. PST. The first data from this critical event will be received on Earth starting at 7:41 a.m. PST.
The Emirates Mars Mission will spend one Martian year — about two Earth years — orbiting the red planet gathering first-of-its-kind data about Martian weather and climate.
The Mars Hope Probe was launched on July 19, 2020, and will initiate a scheduled deceleration to enter into orbit around Mars on Feb. 9, 2021, at 7:30 a.m. PST. The arrival marks the 50th anniversary of The Emirates, which became an independent nation on Dec. 2, 1971.
The mission is being carried out by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in the United Arab Emirates in collaboration with a number of U.S. research institutions, including the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder, Arizona State University and UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Lab (SSL).
The scientific goals of the mission are to provide a complete picture of the lower and upper Martian atmosphere. Unique to Hope is its orbit, which enables near-complete daily and geographic coverage, providing a weather satellite-style view of the Martian atmosphere. The mission will give scientists greater insight into the connections within and between the upper and lower atmospheres and how those connections help to drive atmospheric escape.
“Hope will have an unprecedented global view of the Martian atmosphere, thanks to its unique high altitude, 55-hour-long elliptical orbit,” said Robert Lillis, science team member and principal investigator for the UC Berkeley contribution to the mission. “This will allow it to stay almost stationary over one geographic region, like the huge Valles Marineris Canyon — as long as the USA is wide — for up to eight hours each orbit near its closest point, while also observing the atmosphere at all times of day, which has never been done before.”
During the MOI, nearly half of the fuel on board — 400 kilograms, or 880 pounds — will be burned to slow the mission’s Hope Probe (“Al Amal” in Arabic) enough to be captured into Mars’ orbit. The fuel burn will last approximately 27 minutes and reduce the speed of the spacecraft by 2,143 miles per hour.
The EMM and the Hope probe are the culmination of a knowledge transfer and development effort started in 2006, which has seen Emirati engineers working with partners around the world to develop the UAE’s spacecraft design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities. Hope aims to build the first full picture of Mars’ climate throughout the Martian year.