The United Arab Emirates' historic first mission to Mars is underway after the successful launch their ‘Hope Probe’ on an H2-A rocket led by the first Arabic countdown on 20 July at exactly 01:58:14 (UAE time), from the Tanegashima Space Centre, Japan - a 500-million-km journey to Mars, the second smallest planet in the solar system, to study its weather and climate.

The Emirates Mars Mission is being carried out by ‘Al Amal’ probe as it is called in Arabic, is going to be the first probe to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere and its layers when it reaches the red planet’s orbit in February 2021, this is set to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the UAE's formation, there it will remain in orbit for 687 days i.e. one Martian year – equivalent to 2 earth years.

First of the three planned missions by the UAE, it primarily aims to find out more about the Red Planet. The mission will try and unearth the reason behind Mars’ barren, dusty atmosphere and environment by closely studying its weather and climate. The Red Planet once contained oceans just like Earth, what turned it into a dry and dusty planet remains a mystery yet to be solved. It will help answer key questions about the global Martian atmosphere and the loss of hydrogen and oxygen gases into space.

In February 2017, the UAE unveiled its 100-year plan to colonise Mars and establish the first inhabitable human settlement on the Red Planet by 2117. As part of this ambitious project, the UAE will also build a Mars Science City in Dubai that will replicate Martian conditions to provide a realistic model to simulate living on the surface of Mars.

Currently in its design phase, as stated by Adnan Al Rais, Mars 2117 Programme Manager at the Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). The city will be 3D printed and the material that will be used is still under development. It will also have a museum, educational areas, and space for start-ups. The research areas that will be pursued at the city includes converting carbon dioxide to oxygen considering Mars’ atmosphere is composed mostly of carbon dioxide. Results of this research can be applied on Earth as well because of the increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The Science City is still in the concept stage, but we look forward to seeing it emerge from the sands of the UAE desert.