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United Arab Emirates Successfully Launches Arab World’s First Interplanetary Probe

July 22, 2020

Mission Underscores Deep Collaboration Between UAE and US Partners

Heads of NASA and UAE Space Agency Join Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, Hundreds of Guests for Launch Watch Party Hosted by UAE Embassy

WASHINGTON, DC (21 July 2020) – On Monday, July 20, the Emirates Mars Mission successfully began its journey to Mars from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. The historic launch represents the Arab World’s first ever interplanetary space mission, and a significant milestone in the development of the United Arab Emirates.  

The spacecraft is expected to reach the red planet’s orbit in 2021. Once it begins orbiting Mars, the UAE’s “Hope Probe” will be the first orbiter to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere and its layers. The probe will serve as Mars’ first weather satellite, collecting data to help scientists around the world better understand Martian atmospheric dynamics and climate cycles.

The mission represents the culmination of an innovative knowledge transfer and development program between the UAE and international partners. Working closely with US educational institutions such as University of Colorado, Boulder, University of California, Berkeley and Arizona State University, Emirati scientists established a sustainable and dynamic space exploration industry in the UAE.

During a “watch party” event hosted by UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba, officials from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the UAE Space Agency discussed the important contribution of the Emirates Mars Mission to the global scientific community and applauded the launch alongside experts from the UAE and United States. Hundreds of viewers from the US and around the world tuned into the event.

“This is a truly historic moment for our young country,” Ambassador Al Otaiba said. “Years of hard work and dedication have paid off in a big way. Thanks to the mission team’s efforts, the UAE’s first spacecraft – which six years ago was only a concept – is now flying into space, well on its way to another planet. Every Emirati should feel proud of what their country has accomplished today.”

The UAE Embassy event featured commentary from leading space industry officials in both the US and the UAE. H.E. Dr. Mohammed Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency, participated directly from the launch site in Japan.

“We are witnessing the beginning of a historic era, not only in the UAE but also in the entire Arab region, through the launch of the first Emirati probe to Mars,” said Dr. Al Ahbabi. “The Emirates Mars Mission will contribute vital knowledge to the global space community and prove that a young nation like the UAE can achieve this breakthrough through a commitment to scientific and technological advancement.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine underscored the importance of UAE-US space collaboration and the significance of the UAE’s first mission to another planet.

“I want to say congratulations to the UAE and the Emirates Mars Mission team,” Administrator Bridenstine said. “This is a great moment, not only for the United Arab Emirates, but for the United States of America and for all of the international partners involved in exploring space. Today’s launch is a shining example of what can be done when we work together.”

First announced in 2014, the Emirates Mars Mission has spurred interest in space exploration and scientific research among young Emiratis. In discussion with Ambassador Al Otaiba, Dr. Al Ahbabi thanked the Emirates Mars Mission science team for their dedication to the project over the past six years.

“Our young team has achieved what many said was impossible,” Dr. Al Ahbabi added. “Today’s launch will inspire future generations of Emirati scientists and explorers and open new frontiers of possibility in our region.”

“The Emirates Mars Mission reminds me of another country, some fifty years ago now, that went from having no space agency at all to sending people to the Moon,” remarked Dr. Ellen Stofan, the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the National Air and Space Museum and former Chief Scientist of NASA. “That spirit of Apollo is what I have watched emerge from the UAE, and it will inspire a generation of Emiratis to go out and do the impossible.”

The Hope Mars probe is expected to enter Mars’ orbit in 2021, coinciding with the UAE’s 50th anniversary.

The Emirates Mars Mission is the first of many planned UAE initiatives to explore the red planet. Emirati scientists from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre are currently participating in an eight-month analog mission to simulate the experience of manning a crewed mission to Mars. The analog mission is the first engagement under the auspices of the long-term Mars 2117 program, which aims to facilitate human habitation on the red planet in the next century while achieving scientific breakthroughs to address challenges on Earth.