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SPACE EXPLORATION

Floods, lightning force delays to UAE's historic Mars mission

An employee in the control room of the Mars Mission at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai.
An employee in the control room of the Mars Mission at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai. AFP - GIUSEPPE CACACE

The UAE’s historic mission to Mars has been postponed for a second time after bad weather again scuttled its planned launch.

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The Hope orbiter had originally been due to blast off on Tuesday when conditions at the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan forced a 48-hour delay.

With continuing rain and lightning forecast over the next few days, no new launch date has so far been set – although the UAE mission team said in a tweet that lift-off would happen later in July.

The decision to wait for better conditions was made by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in tandem with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which built the rocket that will launch the probe to space.

Ground teams will reassess the weather closer to the new launch time, which is usually announced two days in advance.

“The weather in Japan has been very unstable … there is a lot of flooding,” mission project manager Omran Sharaf told a virtual briefing.

“For a rocket launch, it's not just about the rain and wind, but also about cloud density, humidity and many different factors that we need to assess."

Earth and Mars at closest point

The launch window for the Emirates’ first interplanetary mission extends to 3 August, when the Earth is at its closest point to Mars.

Hope – or Amal in Arabic – is one of three exploration missions that will reach the red planet in February 2021. They hope to find answers to the enduring question of whether there was ever life on Mars.

The United States and China will launch separate unmanned probes tasked with searching for astrobiological evidence of ancient microbial Martian life.

It will take about seven months for the spacecraft fleet to travel 483 million kilometres beyond Earth's orbit and join Mars’s more distant orbit around the Sun.

 

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