“Hope” for the Middle East: UAE Introduces its Mars Orbiter Mission

The United Arab Emirates has provided quite a bit more information on the Mars orbiter mission it announced last year. Named Hope, it would launch in 2020, and arrive at Mars in 2021, in time to highlight the 50th anniversary of the founding of UAE. Its scientific objective is to provide the first complete holistic model of the Martian atmosphere.

The most intriguing factor may be that of the launch vehicle. Five years is a very, very short time to go from a standing start to a booster reliable enough to send even a small payload to Mars. But then again, UAE does not lack for funds to undertake just such an endeavour.

Given the turmoil roiling the Middle East, the political and social implications of an all-Arab Mars mission are fascinating.

From the story in UAEinteract.com:

“This probe represents hope for millions of young Arabs looking for a better future. There is no future, no achievement, no life without hope,” His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said, adding, “The Emirates Mars Mission will be a great contribution to human knowledge, a milestone for Arab civilisation, and a real investment for future generations.”

And while UAE has been making its ambitions known for some time, one should not underestimate the role India has played in showing to the world it is not just the historical space powers who can make meaningful contributions to space exploration.  We may be seeing an evolving story in which Mars becomes in the current era, what the Moon was during Apollo. Not as the object of a race for human exploration, but instead as a national or regional proving ground for robotic exploration which says “we’ve made it.”

If nothing else though, one thing should be clear. The Red Planet continues to exert an amazing pull on the human imagination, and perhaps even, on the soul.

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