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UAE’s first mission to Mars postponed due to bad weather

The UAE has postponed the launch of its Mars orbiter at the last minute due to bad weather at the launch site.

The mission was first announced in 2014 by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The orbiter, named Amal, or Hope, will carry three instruments allowing it to study the Red Planet’s daily and seasonal weather cycles, weather events in the lower atmosphere such as dust storms, and how the weather varies in different regions of Mars.

It will also attempt to answer the scientific questions of why the Martian atmosphere is losing hydrogen and oxygen into space and the reason behind drastic climate changes on the surface.

Omran Sharaf, the project director for the Emirates Mars Mission, said the probe will provide a complete view of the Martian atmosphere during different seasons for the first time.

The launch was scheduled for Wednesday from the Tanegashima Space Centre in southern Japan, but the UAE mission team announced the rescheduled date on Twitter.

Heavy rain has fallen for more than a week in large areas of Japan, triggering mudslides and floods and killing more than 70 people, most of them on the southern main island of Kyushu.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ H-IIA rocket will carry UAE’s craft into space, where it will undertake a seven-month journey before reaching Mars in February 2021.

But if the current launch opportunity is missed, which extends to 13 August, the mission will have to wait two years for the next window.

The UAE has been ramping up its space plans as part of measures to diversify its economy away from oil exports, which form the majority of its economic output.

It launched its National Space Programme in 2017 which was seen as way to develop expertise in space science among Emirati engineers. The government even announced an ambitious goal of a Mars settlement by 2117, one hundred years from the creation of its space programme.

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

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