The UAE's Mars "Hope" Probe successfully entered the planet's orbit on Tuesday in a first for the Arab world, making the UAE the first Arab country to reach the Red Planet.
"To the people of the UAE, to the Arab and Muslim nations, we announce the succesful arrival to Mars orbit. Praise be to God," said Omran Sharaf, the mission's project manager.
Mission controllers at the UAE’s space center in Dubai announced that the unmanned craft, called Amal, Arabic for Hope, reached the end of its nearly seven-month, 480 million kilometers journey and began circling the red planet, where it will gather detailed data on Mars’ atmosphere.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai said: "Mission accomplished." He had said on Monday the attempt to enter Mars orbit had a 50 percent chance of failing.
"This is the farthest point in the universe to be reached by Arabs throughout their history... More than five million working hours by over 200 Emirati male and female engineers. Our goal is to give hope to all Arabs that we are capable of competing with the rest of the world," he added.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces said: "The entry of the Hope Probe into the orbit of Mars is a significant accomplishment in our nation’s history. This achievement was made possible by the Emirati pioneers whose work will inspire future scientists and engineers for generations. We are immensely proud of them."
The orbiter fired its main engines for 27 minutes in an intricate, high-stakes maneuver that slowed the craft enough for it to be captured by Mars’ gravity.
After the engine firing, it took a nail-biting 15 minutes or so for the signal confirming success to reach Earth. Ground controllers rose their feet and broke into applause. Tensions were high: Over the years, Mars has been the graveyard for a multitude of missions from various countries.
About 60 percent of all Mars missions have ended in failure, crashing, burning up or otherwise falling short in a testament to the complexity of interplanetary travel and the difficulty of making a descent through Mars’ thin atmosphere.
Amal’s arrival puts the UAE in a league of just five space agencies in history that have pulled off a functioning Mars mission. As the country’s first venture beyond Earth’s orbit, the flight is a point of intense pride for the oil-rich nation as it seeks a future in space.
For days, landmarks across the UAE, including Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower on Earth, glowed red to mark Amal’s anticipated arrival. This year is the 50th anniversary of the country's founding, casting even more attention on Amal.
- With The Associated Press