A space probe developed by the United Arab Emirates successfully entered into the orbit of Mars on Tuesday, becoming the first interplanetary mission by a Middle Eastern country.
The HOPE probe, launched last July by Japan’s H2A rocket, will research the temperature and moisture of the Mars atmosphere to study changes over a long period in the climate of the planet while staying 22,000 to 44,000 kilometers above the surface.
Developed at Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai, the probe is part of the UAE’s effort to step up space research as the country marks the 50th anniversary of its founding this year.
The UAE also plans to send a probe to the Moon by 2024.
On July 20, the H2A rocket carrying the HOPE probe lifted off from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan.
The probe measures 3 meters in length and 8 meters in width when its solar panels are fully extended, and weighs 1.5 tons.
Launch opportunities for Mars come up every 26 months when the planet’s orbit comes closest to Earth, enabling space probes to reach the fourth planet from the Sun with less fuel than at other times.
ollowing the launch of the UAE probe, China also sent a probe to Mars in its first independent interplanetary mission. If its probe can make a soft landing on the planet, China will become the second country to deploy a rover on the surface after the United States.
The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration also launched a Mars rover for a mission to collect rock samples and test new technologies on the red planet.
No manned probes have ever been launched for Mars.