TANEGASHIMA SPACE CENTER, JAPAN – The “Summer of Mars” is now in full swing, as the first of (now) three planned Mars missions this year has launched from Tanegashima Space Center aboard a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-2A booster at 6:58 am JST on July 20 (5:58 pm EDT, July 19). The $200 million Emirates Mars Mission, aka Mars Hope, is UAE’s first attempt at an interplanetary mission. If it is successful, it will be only the second first-attempt at a Mars mission to succeed. (India’s Mangalyaan mission, aka Mars Orbiter Mission or MOM, is the only first attempt Mars mission to be successful.)
The Hope mission will arrive at Mars in February 2021, and is designed to study daily and seasonal changes to the Martian atmosphere from orbit. The satellite was built with the assistance of University of Colorado, Boulder, University of Arizona, and University of California, Berkeley researchers. The goal of the mission is to shed light on the loss of hydrogen and oxygen from the Martian atmosphere into space and the reasons for the dramatic climate shift researchers believe turned Mars from an Earth-like planet with liquid water into the red desert world that exists today.
The UAE has a fledgling space program run from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in Dubai. Their program is focused primarily on Earth observation satellites, but has aspirations for an astronaut training program. The name Hope was given to the mission because “it sends a message of optimism to millions of young Arabs.” The information gathered during the mission will be shared with over 200 research organisations. The hope is that Hope will become a driver for a knowledge-based economy in the UAE.
The next mission scheduled for the “Summer of Mars” is the Chinese Tianwen-1 mission, which is scheduled for July 23. Tianwen-1 includes an orbiter, lander, and rover. It will be China’s second attempt at a Mars mission, with the first, Yinghuo-1, was a rideshare along with the Russian Phobos-Grunt mission, which failed in low-Earth orbit and burned up upon re-entry.
The final mission of the “Summer of Mars” will be NASA’s Mars 2020 mission which will carry the Perseverance rover to the Jezero Crater on Mars. Perseverance will cache several samples for an as-yet-planned sample return mission. Perseverance’s main goal is to seek out signs of past life and to pave the way for human exploration in the next decade.
Check out this gallery of screen grabs from the live stream: