UAE's Mars probe nears halfway mark
The probe has about 267 million km to go before reaching the Red Planet's orbit in early 2021.
Seventy-nine days after its lift-off, the UAE's Hope probe is now over 200 million kilometres away from Earth - nearing the halfway mark in its journey towards the Red Planet, the country's Mars mission crew said on Wednesday.
"It is showing excellent performance and currently cruising towards the Martian orbit," said Suhail AlDhafri, deputy project manager for spacecraft development.
Hope has so far covered a distance of approximately 216 million km, according to the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) team, and it has about 267 million km to go before reaching the Red Planet's orbit in early 2021.
From their ground control station in Dubai, the team has been closely monitoring Hope's movement, carrying out tests and conducting trajectory corrections as necessary.
On August 11 and August 28, the spacecraft successfully completed its two trajectory correction manoeuvres (TCMs), a crucial process where it fires its thrusters to stay on the right path. Hope is expected to go through seven TCMs throughout its journey, with the next critical manoeuvre set to be done next month.
"We did commissioning tests on different sub systems of the spacecraft. We tested the power, the computer and communication system and the control systems. We did enormous testing on our space craft performance," AlDhafri said. "All these tests have indicated excellent performance for the space craft to reach Mars and to fulfill its scientific objective."
Omran Sharaf, project manager of the EMM, said the series of tests they have been doing on the probe allowed them to understand the environment surrounding Hope.
"The spacecraft is travelling through a different environment as it moves away from the Earth and goes closer to Mars and we still need to understand how its environment is affecting it. So, we perform tests to see if there is anything that evolves or changes," Sharaf said.
"We are therefore continuing our cruise phase and moving towards Mars with our target of reaching Mars in February 2021.
Hope, the first interplanetary mission of the Arab world, blasted off from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre on July 20. And since then, it has been on an 'outstandingly accurate trajectory', exceeding the expectations of the EMM team.
Aiming to build the first full picture of the Martian climate, it carries three instruments to measure the planet's atmosphere and gather a wealth of data that no other mission had provided before.
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