The United Arab Emirates has accelerated its preparation of the country’s Mars Hope Probe mission amid travel restriction concerns. The mission is scheduled to be launched in mid to late July and is expected to study the Martian atmosphere.
During an address at the 38th meeting of the NASA’s Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG), Hope Probe project manager Omran Sharaf gave an update of the mission’s progress. The meeting was conducted online amid travel restrictions, a theme that proved prominent throughout the three-day event.
The Hope Probe mission, which is also known as the Emirates Mars Mission was first announced in 2014. According to Sharaf, the mission is expected to conduct a detailed study of the Martian atmosphere.
“We will be studying the relationship between the upper and lower layer of the Martian atmosphere and the escape of hydrogen and oxygen,” said Sharaf.
Initially, project managers planned to ship the spacecraft to the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan for integration with the launch vehicle in May. However, due to travel restrictions around the world, those plans were accelerated to ensure key personnel were able to travel and complete 14-day quarantines.
The acceleration of the launch preparation meant that only the most critical testing could be done in the UAE before the spacecraft was packed for shipment. Additional testing of the spacecraft that had been planned before the start of 2020 had to be abandoned.
The Hope Probe is now scheduled to be shipped to Japan this evening or early tomorrow morning. In order to do so, the team was forced to apply for exceptions to bypass severe travel restrictions in both the UAE and Japan. The travel restrictions also meant that critical personnel were required to complete additional application requirements before any travel Visas were approved.
Once the spacecraft arrives at Tanegashima, teams will begin the almost two-month-long launch campaign. The three-week launch window for the Emirates Mars Mission opens on July 15. If all goes well, the spacecraft is expected to enter orbit around the Red Planet in early 2021, approximately 7 months after its launch.