Monday's launch was originally scheduled for last week, but was postponed due to bad weather. This morning, Al Amal, or the Hope Probe, took off from Japan at 6:58 am Monday 20th July (local time), and is now headed towards Mars.
The probe's telecom system was set up and it transmitted its first signal after it successfully separated from the launch vehicle and its solar panels were deployed with clockwork precision an hour after the launch, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Launch Services, which is the launch operator, confirmed.
A newcomer in space development, the UAE has so far successfully launched three observation satellites, but has not gone beyond the Earth's orbit.
According to a report by The Guardian and a live stream of the launch, cheers and claps followed liftoff, and one woman even offered a celebratory cry.
Al Husseiny, general manager of Golden Loaf, said he was particularly looking forward to the launch countdown that was done in Arabic.
Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences, told the broadcaster from Japan of her excitement and relief to see the rocket climb into the sky.
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A successful Hope mission to Mars would be a major step for the oil-dependent economy seeking a future in space, coming less than a year after the launch of the first UAE astronaut, Hazzaa Ali Almansoori. In addition to Hope, China's Tianwen-1, consisting of an orbiter, lander and rover, is now scheduled to launch on July 23, while NASA's Perseverance rover, the successor to Curiosity, is due to follow a week later. "Our partners at LASP have been key to ensuring the success of the mission, delivering an extraordinary spacecraft in nearly half the time of conventional missions but also in providing the resources and knowledge we need to drive our own development of space systems engineering and planetary science", Sharaf said. The main objective of the Mission Hope is to understand Martian weather, which is one of the years they want to complete at least one year's orbit.
While the orbiter has launched today, it will not be making its way directly to Mars.
Most Mars missions orbit at a single local time that allows the atmosphere to be measured at only one time of day but Hope Probe will circle Mars for the entire Martian year, which is equivalent to nearly two Earth years, the report said. It will be put into a geosynchronous orbit where both the upper stage and the Hope probe will stay in this orbit till Mars and Earth align just right.
Japan has its own Mars mission planned in 2024.
The launch was met with a lot of enthusiasm and gusto on Twitter.