UAE to launch first Mars mission

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Photo: Karim Sahib/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will today launch the Arab world’s first interplanetary space mission to Mars aboard a Mitsubishi H-IIA rocket from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre.

The UAE space program, established in 2006, has previously built several Earth observation satellites with South Korean assistance and has sent an Emirati astronaut to the International Space Station aboard a Russian rocket. The Emirates Mars mission and its orbiter “Hope” are a technological leap that will see the UAE join the US, EU, Russia, Japan and India as one of a handful of countries to reach Mars. Hope will use its onboard instruments to build a clearer understanding of Mars’ atmosphere and photograph seasonal changes. Mars missions are notoriously difficult, with only 40% successfully reaching the red planet.

In 2016, the UAE announced the government’s post-oil economic diversification strategy for the next century. Today’s launch is part of the Mars 2117 project, one of four ambitious plans comprising that strategy, with plans to shift towards a knowledge-based and clean energy economy. While the eventual success of the mission is yet unknown, Hope demonstrates the UAE’s commitment to building domestic technological capabilities and is a clear indication that the government possesses both the resources and the resolve to carry out a bold economic transition.

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