UAE’s Hope Spacecraft Captures its First Image of Mars

Mikaeel Zohair, Staff Writer

On February 9, 2021, the United Arab Emirates’ spacecraft “Hope” entered orbit around Mars. This marked the UAE as the first Arab nation to reach the Red Planet, joining only three other nations that have successfully sent missions to Mars: the United States, India, and the Soviet Union.

The spacecraft Hope was placed into a wide orbit in order to study Mars’ climate and weather systems, meaning that Hope can also see the planet’s full circumference. A picture was taken about 15,000 miles above the Martian surface on February 10th, and the UAE Space Agency said that the picture “captured the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons, emerging into the early morning sunlight.”

In the image, Olympus Mons is centered as it exits the darkness, with a line of three shield volcanoes off to the right. Just east of the line of volcanoes is the largest canyon in the solar system, Valles Marineris, partly obscured by clouds.

Hope is planned to orbit the Red Planet for at least one Martian year, or 687 days, using three instruments designed to watch over Mars’ atmosphere. These scientific instruments will capture how dust storms start and evolve, as well as how the atmosphere reacts to changes in space weather. Arab scientists are hoping to trace how energy moves through Mars’ atmosphere from the bottom to the top as hydrogen and oxygen gases escape into space.

The UAE is not the only country currently taking advantage of Mars’ somewhat close proximity to Earth. China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft entered Mars’ orbit on February 10th, while NASA’s Perseverance space rover entered Mars’ orbit on February 18th.

For the UAE, scientists and officials are hoping that this revolutionary space mission will motivate young people across the country to pursue careers in science and astronomy.