The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has successfully launched its first probe to Mars in a landmark day for the country.
Al-Amal, or ‘Hope’ in English, will join America’s Mars 2020 and China’s Tianwen-1 rockets in its attempt to reach the red planet.
A live video feed showed the Japanese-made H-IIA rocket lifting off from the Tanegashima Space Centre in the Kumage District in Japan.
The probe is set to arrive in February 2021 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE. Once it reaches Mars, the probe will carry out 687 days of orbital data collection to help scientists better understand how the Red Planet went from being a warm world with liquid surface water to become colder and drier.
Omran Sharaf, the mission’s project manager, told a pre-launch briefing: “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 at different seasons.
“We have a strategy to contribute to the global effort in developing technologies and science work that will help one day if humanity decides to put a human on Mars.”
The launch represents a significant step forward for the UAE, with the country setting a goal to build a human colony on Mars by 2117.
Sharaf says he hopes the launch will be an inspiration to the younger generation: “It sends a very strong message to the Arab youth that if the UAE is able to reach Mars in less than 50 years, they could do much more.
“So, the region has been going through tough times in the past decades, if not centuries,” Sharaf said. “Now we have the case of the UAE, a country that’s moving forward with its plans, looking at the future and the future of region also.”
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The UAE is not the only small nation to try to reach the stars. Scotland has recently had success in its own space race. In June, Edinburgh-based Skyrora completed its first successful rocket launch in Shetland, marking a major milestone for Britain’s commercial space sector.
As well as the successful launch, this month the company announced it will create up to 170 jobs in Scotland through the establishment of a new rocket testing facility.
Volodymyr Levykin, chief executive at Skyrora, commented: “The opening of our engine test complex represents a giant leap forward for the UK’s ambitions as a space nation and Scotland’s status as a space hub.
“The location and additional jobs will benefit the UK space industry and help the overall economy grow. It will also allow Skyrora’s highly skilled workforce and a young generation of engineers and technicians to be a part of this space revolution.”