The Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation, today released a series of unique new observations drawn from the first measurements of Mars’ atmosphere across a full Martian year (two full Earth years). The release celebrates the third year of science data gathering around Mars by the Hope probe and marks the accomplishment of the Mission’s stated science objectives. Salem Butti Al Qubaisi, Director-General of the UAE Space Agency, said, “The Emirates Mars Mission was conceived to provide a national challenge that would accelerate the development not only of the UAE’s engineering capabilities, but to disrupt our education, research and innovation ecosystems. There is no doubt at all that it has succeeded in that beyond our wildest expectations. At the outset, the UAE’s leadership made it clear that EMM should make a significant scientific contribution, and we can now say that the mission not only fulfilled its original science objectives, but has significantly surpassed them.” EMM was designed to achieve three objectives that complemented questions posed by the global grouping of Mars scientists and researchers, MEPAG – the Mars Exploration Programme Analysis Group. Hope set out to monitor the global, diurnal, and seasonal changes that the Martian atmosphere undergoes due to year-to-year variations including those caused by solar forcing that result in atmospheric escape – particularly of Hydrogen and Oxygen and the temporal and spatial behaviour of Mars’ atmosphere.
Hoor Al Mazmi, EMM Project Manager, commented, “We can say with confidence that EMM has blown past its original stated science objectives. Not only have we achieved our goals, and taken Hope into an extended mission, but we have added unique new discoveries, from investigations of new types of aurora through to the most extensive new observations of Mars’ least known moon, Deimos.”
“Hope’s unique elliptical orbit supports these unique observations, giving us a near-complete picture of the planet’s atmospheric dynamics every nine days. That has enabled us to create an incredible depiction of Mars’ changing atmosphere day and night, across the seasons and throughout a full Martian year.” Said Mohsen Al Awadhi, Director of Space Missions Department at UAE Space Agency, “With the probe performing optimally, we performed a manoeuvre to support a season of Deimos observations and I can say today that we still have the option, from an engineering point of view, of further extending the mission.”
A series of visuals shared by the Emirates Mars Mission’s Science Team to celebrate the third anniversary include an animation of the Oxygen emission changing over more than one Martian year captured by its Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer, EMUS. Acquired when the spacecraft passed over local times around 09:00 and 15:00, these images of atomic oxygen emission at a wavelength of 130.4 nm revealed the vigorous dynamics of the upper atmosphere of Mars, which is slowly escaping into space. The EMUS videos showed the variability of oxygen across the Martian year as the planet moves closer and further away from the sun. These global views of the oxygen emission have never been seen before this mission.
In addition to the EMUS animation, the EMM science team shared Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EMIRS) images showing daily global maps that the instrument gets of dust and ice over a full Martian year, enabling analysis and better understanding of the daily variation of these constituents.
Finally, the science team has revealed Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EXI) images that show how the planet changes visually using a sequence of 12 images taken across an entire Martian year exhibiting the impacts of seasonal change on the planet.
The Hope Probe carries three instruments:
EXI – The Emirates Exploration Imager is a digital camera that captures high resolution images of Mars along with measuring water ice in the lower atmosphere through the UV bands. EMIRS – The Emirates Mars InfraRed Spectrometer measures global distribution of dust, ice, and water vapour in the Martian lower atmosphere. EMUS – The Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer measures oxygen and carbon monoxide in the thermosphere and the variability of hydrogen and oxygen in the exosphere.
EMM and the Hope probe are the culmination of a knowledge transfer and development effort started in 2006, which has seen Emirati engineers working with partners around the world to develop the UAE’s spacecraft design, engineering, and space science capabilities. Hope is a spacecraft that carries three instruments to study Mars’ atmosphere. Weighing some 1,350 kg, and approximately the size of a small SUV, the spacecraft was designed and developed by MBRSC engineers working with knowledge transfer partners, including LASP at the University of Colorado, Boulder; Arizona State University, and the University of California, Berkeley.