UAE Beats U.S. in New Race to Mars, Sends Amal Mission on Mitsubishi Rocket

Amal orbiter rendering 1 photo
Photo: Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre
Starting with the end of this month, the window for the NASA 2020 mission to Mars opens. The American space agency will be sending to the Red Planet it’s most ambitious rover yet, the Perseverance, a machine tasked with performing a series of never-before-attempted experiments.
But before the American mission gets underway, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) kicked off its first ever interplanetary mission. An orbiter called Amal, or Hope, took off on board a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ H-IIA rocket from a Japanese island, taking the dreams of the Arab nation into space.

The country has been involved in space exploration for a while now. In late 2019, Hazzaa Ali Almansoori became the first UAE astronaut to be sent to the International Space Station. UAE also has three satellites in orbit, developed either independently or together with engineers from South Korea. The country does not have at the moment launch capabilities, so it uses the existing infrastructure in Russia and Japan.

The Amal orbiter, developed together with scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder, University of California, Berkeley and Arizona State University, will arrive in orbit around Mars in February 2021. It is tasked with studying the upper atmosphere of the planet and monitor climate change. The life-expectancy of the spacecraft is about two years.

Several hours into the mission, mission control reported all is going according to plan and the spacecraft is sending back signals.

“It was great to see everything going according to schedule today. It looks like things are all on track. It’s a huge step in terms of space exploration to have a nation like the UAE taking that giant leap to send a spacecraft to Mars,” said according to Time astronomer Fred Watson. “Being on route to a planet like Mars is an exceptional achievement.”

As the new space race intensifies, we’ll probably see more countries rushing toward Mars in the near future. Both China and the U.S. are scheduled to launch missions this coming month alone.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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