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How the United Arab Emirates Set Its Sights on Mars

How the United Arab Emirates Set Its Sights on Mars

Because the U.A.E. does not yet have its own rocket industry, it bought the launch for Hope aboard an H-IIA rocket from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, a machinery maker in Japan. At the launch site in Japan, the liftoff was to occur in the early morning, at 5:51 a.m.

About the size of a Mini Cooper car, Hope was to arrive in orbit around Mars in February. The spacecraft — which cost about $200 million to build and launch — will carry three instruments: an infrared spectrometer, an ultraviolet spectrometer and a camera.

From its high orbit — varying from 12,400 miles to 27,000 miles above the surface — Hope, when it launches, will give planetary scientists their first global view of Martian weather at all times of day. Over its two-year mission, it will investigate how dust storms and other weather phenomena near the Martian surface speed or slow the loss of the planet’s atmosphere into space.

That, however, is not the main reason that the Emirates government built Hope.

“A lot of you might ask us, ‘Why space?’” Omran Sharaf, the Hope project manager, said during a news conference on Thursday. “It’s not about reaching Mars.”

Rather, Mr. Sharaf said, the country’s primary aim is to inspire schoolchildren and spur its science and technology industries, which, in turn, will enable the Emirates to tackle critical issues like food, water, energy and a post-petroleum economy.

“It’s about starting getting the ball rolling,” Mr. Sharaf said, “and creating that disruptive change, and changing the mind-set.”

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