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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The final piece of a UAE-built probe destined for Mars was signed by two of the country's leaders on Sunday.
At the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, signed a piece of the outer casing for the Hope probe with an inspirational message for the rest of the Arab world.
"The power of hope shortens the distance between the Earth and sky," the two wrote in Arabic.
The metal piece will be attached to the probe, which will be used to study the atmosphere on Mars and is set to blast off for the Red Planet this year in a historic mission for the UAE.
"Today me and my brother Mohamed bin Zayed signed the last piece of the outer structure of the Hope probe, the first Arab-Islamic probe to reach Mars," Sheikh Mohammed said on Twitter.
He said the phrase, which will be engraved, "sends a message to all Arab youth that we are able to succeed and compete and not to lose the power of hope that can move mountains".
In a tweet, Sheikh Mohamed confirmed the probe would launch in July. The launch window was chosen because it is the time that Earth and Mars will be at their closest point. This only happens once every two years.
"Buoyed by the determination of our youth, we are proceeding with our space programme to serve science and humanity," Sheikh Mohamed said.
The Hope Probe mission, also called the Emirates Mars Mission, is the first by any Arab or Muslim-majority country.
Built by Emirati engineers with help from US experts, Hope will blast off from Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan. It will take seven to nine months for the probe to reach Mars and will arrive in the same year the UAE celebrates its 50th anniversary since unification.
The probe was designed and developed by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre but funded and supervised by the UAE Space Agency.
Hope will become one of three probes orbiting Mars. The other two are already in place.
Nasa is studying the upper atmosphere of the planet with one probe, while India analyses the lower atmosphere with another. The UAE probe will study how the upper and lower layers interact with one another, providing the first complete picture of the planet’s atmosphere. It will also help to create a picture of how the seasons on Mars are affected by the light of the Sun.
The spacecraft will then collect two years' worth of scientific data, with an optional two-year extension that would take the mission into 2025.
The mission precedes the UAE's plans to build a habitable settlement on Mars by 2117.
The UAE became a formidable contributor to the space sector after launching several locally made satellites into space and, last year, sending the first Emirati astronaut to the International Space Station.
Maj Hazza Al Mansouri spent eight days at the station in September, carrying out scientific experiments and giving a tour of the station in Arabic.
Updated: January 5, 2020 05:47 PM
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