By Arab News
It was 7.42 p.m. in Dubai, and the eruption of cheers in the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre resonated throughout the Arab world.
“To the people of the UAE, to the Arab and Muslim nations, we announce the successful arrival in Mars orbit,”said mission project manager Omran Sharaf said as the UAE’s Hope probe began circling the Red Planet.
To enter orbit, Hope needed to burn about half of its 800kg of fuel to slow down enough not to overshoot, in the most perilous part of the journey. The probe rotated and fired all six of its powerful Delta V thrusters to dramatically slow its average cruising speed of 121,000 kph to about 18,000 kph.
Entry to orbit marked the end of a seven-month journey of nearly 500 million kilometers, the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission, and the beginning of a breakthrough in scientific research.
Hope will orbit the Red Planet for at least one Martian year, or 687 days, using three scientific instruments to monitor the atmosphere. It is expected to begin transmitting information back to Earth in September 2021, with the data available for scientists around the world to study.
As Hope entered Mars orbit, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest tower, lit up in a spectacular “Mission Accomplished” laser light and fountain show with news of the success
The mission also marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE. “As a young nation, it is a particular point of pride that we are now in a position to make a tangible contribution to humanity’s understanding of Mars,” said Sarah Al-Amiri, the UAE government minister who has overseen the project.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the Dubai ruler and UAE prime minister, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, strode into the control room at Al Khawaneej to congratulate the mission team.
“Today is the start of a new chapter in Arab history … of trust in our capability to compete with other nations and people,” the prime minister said. “The UAE will celebrate its golden jubilee with science, culture and inspiration because we aim to build a model of development.”
Project manager Sharaf said: “This project means a lot for the nation, for the whole region, and for the global scientific and space community.
“It’s not just about reaching Mars, it’s a tool for a much bigger objective. The government wanted to see a big shift in the mindset of Emirati youth … to expedite the creation of an advanced science and technology sector in the UAE.”
Among the congratulations was a message from NASA, the US space agency, quoting the 10th century Iraqi poet Al-Mutanabbi: “If you ventured in pursuit of glory, don’t be satisfied with less than the stars.”