A Japanese H-IIA rocket carrying a United Arab Emirates Mars spacecraft has been placed on the launch pad for Monday’s scheduled liftoff for the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission, officials said Sunday.
The launch of the orbiter — named Amal, or Hope — from Tanegashima Space Center on a small southern Japanese island was initially scheduled for this past Wednesday, but was delayed due to bad weather in the region.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the provider of the H-IIA rocket, announced Sunday that the launch would proceed at 6:58 a.m. Monday (2158 GMT Sunday). The preparation has been completed, and the rocket is now on the launch pad, Mitsubishi said.
Hope is expected to reach Mars in February 2021, the year the UAE celebrates 50 years since its formation. A successful Hope mission would be a major step for the oil-dependent economy, which is seeking a future in space.
Two other Mars missions are planned in the coming days by the U.S. and China. Japan has its own Martian moon mission planned for 2024.
Hope will carry instruments to study the upper atmosphere and monitor climate change on Mars. It is scheduled to circle the red planet for at least two years. The UAE says it will provide a complete view of the Martian atmosphere during different seasons for the first time.
A newcomer in space development, the UAE has so far successfully launched three observation satellites, but has not gone beyond the Earth’s orbit.
Omran Sharaf, project director of Emirates Mars Mission, said in a Twitter video message Sunday: “The Emirates’ Mars mission is a message of hope to the Arab youth. If a young nation like UAE is able to reach Mars in less than 50 years, then we can do much more as a region.”