Hope probe marks Arab world’s first interplanetary mission

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Updated 30 July 2020

Hope probe marks Arab world’s first interplanetary mission

  • Mission will be the first to provide full picture of Mars atmosphere when it arrives in 2021

DUBAI: On July 20, the UAE’s Hope spacecraft began its journey to Mars, taking off at 1:58 a.m. from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. It has since travelled over 2.47 million kilometers into a 493 million kilometer, seven month journey, after which it is scheduled to reach Mars in February 2021, marking the 50th anniversary of the UAE. The probe was scheduled to launch on July 15, but was delayed due to unstable weather conditions. The date of July 20 marked the third launch date for the probe.

Inside the mission’s command center at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in the Al Khawaneej area of Dubai, a team of 15 take turns tracking the movement of the spacecraft.

“Nothing about Mars is easy and when it comes to sending a probe to Mars, 50 percent of the missions have already failed,” Omran Sharaf, director of the Emirates Mars Mission’s (EMM) Hope probe told Arab News. “It’s the first time that the UAE has sent a deep space mission, and on top of that a mission to Mars.”


The team has gone against the odds by launching the mission during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. “COVID-19 put the mission at risk,” explained Sharaf. “We were at risk of actually having to delay the mission by two years because the opportunity to launch a probe to Mars comes once every two years.”

During the timeframe available, which included sending the team to the launch site in Japan, airports shut down all over the world, and travel restrictions were imposed. “It was at the peak of the spread of the virus. But because the team was able to identify the risks early on before the country decided imposing travel restrictions, we put plans in place for operating under the worst case scenario,” said Sharaf.

In turn, they had to shift the spacecraft to Japan two weeks earlier than planned. A team was also sent prior to the scheduled date so that they could enter quarantine in Japan and then receive the spacecraft when it arrived. The team,  which was supposed to travel back and forth between the UAE and Japan, had to spend four months in Japan that stretched into the holidays of Ramadan and Eid.

“Nothing is impossible,” said Sharaf. “This is the Arab world’s first mission to Mars. The name itself, that the UAE’s prime minister gave to the probe, Hope, is a message to the Arab youth. The message is that if the UAE is able to reach Mars fewer than 50 years after becoming a nation, then we can do much more.

“The Middle East region has more than 100 million young people in it,” continued Sharaf. “This is a region that has a history of generating knowledge. Scientists from this region over 1,000 years ago generated knowledge and contributed to humanity, who came from different backgrounds. They lived in the region, built the region and contributed to humanity by bringing that new knowledge. The moment we stopped generating such knowledge, stopped accepting difference and coexistence, as a region we started moving backwards.

The UAE Mars mission is just one of many of the country’s groundbreaking plans for innovation. Its aim is provide the first complete picture of the Martian atmosphere. This includes an understanding of the climate dynamics and the global weather map through characterizing the lower atmosphere of Mars as well as an explanation of how the weather changes the escape of hydrogen and oxygen through correlating the lower atmosphere conditions with the upper atmosphere.

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READ MORE: UAE’s Amal spacecraft rockets toward Mars in Arab world first

World praises UAE on successful launch of Mars Hope probe

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The communication between the probe and Earth is made possible via US space agency Nasa’s Deep Space Network, through antennae at Goldstone in California, Canberra, Australia, and Madrid, Spain.

“So far the journey of the probe is going well and is in good condition,” explained Sharaf. “We are still in the commissioning phase where we are checking the status of various subsystems and the system overall and try and understand various aspects of it while it is in space.”

Within 13 days, the mission will move on to a more complicated phase, when it shifts into the cruising phase, whereby contact with the spacecraft will take place twice a week in slots of six to seven hours. As the probe moves farther away from Earth, the team expects a delay in receiving the telemetry.

The probe will remain orbiting Mars for an entire Martian year — 687 days — in order to gather sufficient data. A single orbit around Mars will take the probe 55 hours.

“When we reach Mars next year we will slow down the probe in order to capture the orbit of Mars,” said Zakareyya Al-Shamsi, deputy manager of mission operations in the EMM. “We then will transfer the information to the scientists who will analyze the data found.”

The goal of EMM is revolutionary for our understanding of the Martian climate. It aims to provide scientists with a thorough insight into the past and future of Earth as well as the potential for life on Mars for humans, and on other distant planets.


US military strengthens deployment in Syria

A US military vehicle patrols near the Rumaylan oil fields in Syria’s northeastern Hasakeh province, as Washington stepped up its military deployment in the area. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2020

US military strengthens deployment in Syria

  • Several incidents in recent weeks have pitted the US military against Russian forces now deployed along the Turkish border under an agreement with Ankara

WASHINGTON: The US Army announced on Friday it was stepping up its military deployment — both troops and equipment — in northeastern Syria despite a push to limit its presence there, a move that follows tensions with Russia in the region.
US Central Command (Centcom) “has deployed Sentinel radar, increased the frequency of US fighter patrols over US forces, and deployed Bradley Fighting Vehicles to augment US forces” in the area, which is controlled by the US and its Kurdish allies, spokesman Captain Bill Urban said in a statement.
The number of armored vehicles sent as reinforcement did not exceed half a dozen, and “less than 100 people” were sent to maneuver them, a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
Without mentioning Russia, Urban said the moves were meant “to help ensure the safety and security of coalition forces,” and that the US “does not seek conflict with any other nation in Syria, but will defend coalition forces if necessary.”
The US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said however that the actions “are a clear signal to Russia to adhere to mutual de-confliction processes and for Russia and other parties to avoid unprofessional, unsafe and provocative actions in northeast Syria.”
US Bradley Fighting Vehicles were pulled out of the region last October by President Donald Trump, who tried in early 2019 to recall all US troops from Syria, before agreeing to leave a few hundred to protect oil wells.
Several incidents in recent weeks have pitted the US military against Russian forces now deployed along the Turkish border under an agreement with Ankara.
At the end of August, seven American soldiers were injured in a collision with a Russian vehicle.
Videos posted on Twitter, apparently filmed by witnesses and the Russians themselves, showed Russian armor and helicopters attempting to block American vehicles and then force them out of the area.

HIGHLIGHT

Several incidents in recent weeks have pitted the US military against Russian forces now deployed along the Turkish border under an agreement with Ankara.

The tanks were flown in from a base in Kuwait, anti-militant coalition spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto said in another statement.
US and Russian troops frequently interact in Syria, but confrontations have been rare.
Meanwhile, the Syrian regime criticized the Netherlands on Saturday for launching a new bid through international bodies to hold it responsible for alleged gross human rights violations.
A Foreign Ministry source quoted by state news agency SANA accused the Netherlands of abusing its position as host of a number of the bodies concerned.
“The Dutch government ... is determined to use the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to serve the political agendas of its American master,” the ministry source said.
The source accused the Netherlands of doing so “in a flagrant violation of its obligations and commitments as the headquarters state of this international organization.”
On Friday, the Dutch government announced that it was pursuing all legal avenues to ensure that the Syrian regime was held to account for its human rights record.
An attempt to refer top Syrian government officials to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for prosecution was blocked by Chinese and Russian vetoes in May 2014.
But the Dutch government said that, if arbitration failed, it would pursue action through an international court, the most likely being the ICJ, also in The Hague.
Unlike the ICC, which deals with cases against individuals, the ICJ deals with disputes between UN member states and breaches of UN treaties, and is the world body’s top judicial organ.
Syria signed the UN Convention against Torture in 2004 and the Dutch government said its legal action would focus on alleged breaches of that treaty.
The US and the EU have targeted numerous figures linked to the Damascus regime with economic sanctions since the civil war erupted in 2011.
But concerted international action has been blocked by deep divisions over the conflict.
The war has killed more than 380,000 people and driven millions from their homes since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.