Flight controllers at the Emirates’ Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre break into applause with confirmation of a successful Mars orbit insertion by the Hope spacecraft. Image: UAE Space Agency
The United Arab Emirates Hope spacecraft braked into orbit around Mars on 9 February, firing its six primary thrusters for a nerve-wracking 27 minutes to slow down enough for capture by the red planet’s gravity. The Mars orbit insertion, or MOI, “burn” capped a seven-month voyage from Earth and marked an “enormous milestone” for the first planetary mission launched by an Arab nation.
“MOI was the most critical and dangerous part of our journey to Mars, exposing the Hope probe to stresses and pressures it has never before faced,” said Omran Sharaf, director of the Hope project at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre.
“While we have spent six years designing, testing and retesting the system, there is no way to fully simulate the impacts of the deceleration and navigation required to achieve MOI autonomously. With this enormous milestone achieved, we are now preparing to transition to our science orbit and commence science data gathering.”
Hope is the first of three spacecraft arriving at Mars this month. China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft, made ...