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In this photo released by MHI, an H-IIA rocket with United Arab Emirates’ Mars orbiter Hope lifts off from Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima, southern Japan Monday, July 20, 2020. A United Arab Emirates spacecraft rocketed away Monday on a seven-month journey to Mars, kicking off the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission. (MHI via AP).
A United Arab Emirates spacecraft rocketed into blue skies from a Japanese launch center Monday at the start of a seven-month journey to Mars on the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission.
The liftoff of the Mars orbiter named Amal, or Hope, starts a rush to fly to Earth’s neighbor that is scheduled to be followed in the next few days by China and the United States.
At the space center in Dubai, people watching were transfixed by the liftoff, then cheered and clapped, with one woman with offering a celebratory cry common for weddings.
Amal blasted off from the Tanegashima Space Center aboard a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ H-IIA rocket on time at 6:58 a.m. (2158 GMT Sunday) after being delayed five days by bad weather.
Mitsubishi later said the probe successfully separated from the rocket and was now on its solo journey to Mars.
The probe was sending signals that would be analyzed later but everything appeared good for now, Omran Sharaf, the UAE Mars mission director told journalists in Dubai about an hour and a half after liftoff.
Amal is set to reach Mars in February 2021, the year the UAE celebrates 50 years since the country’s formation. In September that year, Amal will start transmitting Martian atmospheric data, which will be made available to the international scientific community, Sharaf said.
“The UAE is now a member of the club and we will learn more and we will engage more and we’ll continue developing our space exploration program,” UAE Space Agency chief Mohammed Al Ahbabi told a joint online news conference from Tanegashima.
At Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in Dubai, Emirati men in their traditional white kandora robes and women in their black abayas watched the liftoff. As its stages separated, a cheer went out from men seated on the floor. They began clapping, one using his face mask, worn due to the coronavirus pandemic, to wipe away a tear.
“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 Fred Watson, Australia’s astronomer-at-large. “Being on route to a planet like Mars is an exceptional achievement.”
A newcomer in space development, the UAE has successfully put three Earth observation satellites into orbit. Two were developed by South Korea and launched by Russia, and a third — its own — was launched by Japan.
A successful mission to Mars would be a major step for the oil-dependent economy seeking a future in space, coming less than a year after the launch of the first UAE astronaut, Hazzaa Ali Almansoori. He spent over a week at the International Space Station last fall.
The UAE has set a goal to build a human colony on Mars by 2117.
“It sends a very strong message to the Arab youth that if the UAE is able to reach Mars in less than 50 years, they could do much more,” Sharaf told The Associated Press on Sunday as his colleagues prepared for the launch.
The Emiratis also acknowledged it represented a step forward for the Arab world, the home of mathematicians and scientists for centuries before the wars and chaos that have gripped wide swathes of it in recent times.
Source: AP news