UAE postpones Mars mission due to bad weather

The 1.3-tonne probe 'Hope' was expected to set off from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center on Wednesday

In this file photo from September 2019 a man takes a picture of an illustration of an astronaut with the Emirati national flag outside Dubai's Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre. Photo:KARIM SAHIB AFP/File

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates postponed the launch of its mission to Mars due to weather conditions at the launch site in Japan.

A new launch date in July will be announced soon, the UAE government communications office said in a statement on Tuesday.

The UAE’s Hope Probe was due to set off from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center at 12:51am UAE time on Wednesday (2051 GMT Tuesday) for a seven-month journey to the red planet where it was due to orbit and send back data about the atmosphere.

“The UAE’s space mission, the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission, will launch on Friday July 17, 2020 at 12:43am UAE time (July 16, 2020 at 8:43pm GMT) from Tanegashima Space Center,” the government communications office tweeted.

There are currently eight active missions exploring Mars; some orbit the planet and some land on its surface. China and the United States will send another two this year.

The UAE, an oil-exporting nation, first announced plans for the mission in 2014 as part of efforts to diversify away from hydrocarbons and develop a knowledge economy, aiming to reach the planet by 2021.

With a population of 9.4 million, most of whom are foreign workers, the UAE lacks the scientific and industrial base of the big space-faring nations. It launched a National Space Programme in 2017 to develop expertise in space science among Emiratis.

Emirati Hazza al-Mansouri became the first Arab in space in September 2019 in a flight to the International Space Station.

To develop and build the Hope Probe, Emiratis and Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) worked with U.S. educational institutions with space science expertise.

The UAE government has announced an ambitious goal of a Mars settlement by 2117.