Mars rover Hope, the United Arab Emirates’ scientific march robot, is due to approach the red planet on Tuesday. If all goes well. It is the first of 3 missions that will try to get safely into the atmosphere of Mars in the coming weeks.
Hope is the first ever marching mission from the United Arab Emirates. The probe has been traveling through space for 7 months. On Tuesday, it normally has to reach the atmosphere planet, but the corresponding lander has to perform a complicated maneuver.
The plane is currently speeding through space at 120,000 kilometers per hour. Just before arrival it slams the brakes for 27 minutes. After that, the planet’s gravity must take over and it will float past the planet. It is a solid piece of engineering work. Braking too quickly and Hope dangles forever beyond the reach of the planet. Too slow and the planet is too far away.
In recent months, UAE engineers have been working hard to get Hope to the right place in Mars orbit at the right time. That is also necessary: it takes 11 minutes to communicate a change to the rocket that Hope is now in. The probe must therefore be able to do it all by itself.
If all goes well, we will receive a signal on earth that the braking maneuver has started at 8.40 pm. Roughly half an hour later, the engineers have to try to reconnect. If successful, Hope will act as a kind of weather station on Mars.
The UAE party
The UAE space mission is the first of its kind. The work started six years ago and the landing this year is also a good way to celebrate the golden anniversary of the federation. It was founded in 1971. The whole country is therefore looking forward to the jump: buildings are lit red and there is a live stream of the administrative center.
Incidentally, it will be busy days on the red planet. Tianwen-1, a Chinese orbiter, will also arrive on Wednesday. And on the 18th the Americans drop a robber on marching ground.
Also read: Space 2021: it will be busy on Mars and the moon this year (and lots of nice things)