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UAE's historic first Mars mission launches from Japan

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UAE's historic first Mars mission launches from Japan
A Japanese H-2A rocket like this one is prepared to launch the United Arab Emirates Mars orbiter Hope in Japan on Sunday evening. Photo courtesy of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

July 19 (UPI) -- The United Arab Emirates' launched the Arab world's historic first interplanetary mission to Mars from Japan on Sunday evening.

The Emirati orbiting satellite, named Hope, launched on schedule at 5:58 p.m. EDT aboard a Japanese H-2A rocket, from the Tanegashima Space Center about 450 miles south of Hiroshima.

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The UAE chose the Mars science mission as a way to catalyze the technology and space industries there.

The rocket lifted off into a clear blue morning sky in south Japan, with the nose cone enveloped in fog briefly as it broke the sound barrier. The flight headed east over the Pacific Ocean as the vehicle jettisoned the first stage booster.

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As the mission neared an hour in flight, the Hope orbiter separated from the second stage booster. A few minutes later, mission controllers reported that the spacecraft's solar panels deployed and Hope sent a signal back to Earth.

Rocket components were built in Dubai, but the spacecraft was assembled at the University of Colorado and then shipped back to the UAE for checkouts and tests. The Arab nation received help preparing for the mission from several American universities, including the University of Colorado and Arizona State University.

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The launch is to be followed by a Chinese Tianwen-1 Mars mission launch planned for July 23, and then NASA's Mars Perseverance rover no earlier than July 30. If those missions don't launch this summer, when the planets are near each other, they most likely won't happen for another two years as the planets move apart.

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The UAE plans a February 2021 arrival at Mars, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the country's founding in 1971.

Hope carries three instruments intended to circle Mars for four Earth years -- two years on Mars -- to gather data and images of the atmosphere. The goal is to gain a better understanding of Martian weather and atmospheric processes around the entire planet in all of its seasons, not just in a few locations.

The data, which UAE intends to share with up to 200 nations, could help scientists understand one of the mysteries about Mars: why the planet lost much of its atmosphere over millions of years.

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