United Arab Emirates Mars mission collaborates with NASA
The “Hope” Mars mission under development by the United Arab Emirates has continued to make progress in recent weeks with the announcement that NASA will be collaborating with the UAE Space Agency, as first reported by Gulf News on November 26, 2016.
Dr. Gale Allen, NASA’s Deputy Chief Scientist, had flown in for the UN-UAE High Level Forum on Space as a Driver for Socio-Economic Sustainable Development. She said in an interview with Gulf News that the collaboration between NASA and the UAE Space Agency is part of a recently signed “umbrella agreement” between the two agencies.
“For the Mars probe, one of [the] things that is very interesting to us is an opportunity to put communications capability on the probe,” she said. “The importance for us is that we really want to send humans to Mars in the 2030s […].”
Communications between a spacecraft and the Earth is a critical component of any Mars mission. Current missions on the surface of Mars frequently employ other spacecraft orbiting the planet as relays to help transmit data back to the Earth. A future crewed mission is likely to utilize spacecraft already orbiting Mars to help in transmitting larger quantities of data to Earth.
Dr. Allen added, “We do not have good communications in that area. We are looking at, possibly at some point, putting better communications up there. If we could partner and leverage the UAE Mars probe, it is certainly going to be beneficial for us.”
Regarding additional collaboration between the two nations in space, Dr. Allen noted that “the agreement is an umbrella agreement. It means that we want to collaborate in future space exploration missions.”
During the Gulf News interview, she also pointed out that the UAE is already acting as a major player in space exploration with the development of an astronomical camera network that aids in debris detection, which can serve as an early warning system for astronauts in orbit. “The [UAE’s] camera network is going to be useful for everybody,” Dr. Allen said. “It’s very important for the world, not just for one country or space agency.”
The centerpiece of the UAE Mars mission is the Hope spacecraft, which represents the first interplanetary spacecraft to be built by an Arab nation. Its mission is set to launch in July 2020 to coincide with the UAE’s 50th anniversary in 2021. Upon insertion into Mars orbit, Hope will focus on studying the Martian atmosphere to gain a better understanding of climate dynamics and global weather patterns and to pave the way for future exploration of the planet.
Video Courtesy of Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre MBRSC
Paul is currently a graduate student in Space and Planetary Sciences at the University of Akransas in Fayetteville. He grew up in the Kansas City area and developed an interest in space at a young age at the start of the twin Mars Exploration Rover missions in 2003. He began his studies in aerospace engineering before switching over to geology at Wichita State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in 2013. After working as an environmental geologist for a civil engineering firm, he began his graduate studies in 2016 and is actively working towards a PhD that will focus on the surficial processes of Mars. He also participated in a 2-week simluation at The Mars Society's Mars Desert Research Station in 2014 and remains involved in analogue mission studies today. Paul has been interested in science outreach and communication over the years which in the past included maintaining a personal blog on space exploration from high school through his undergraduate career and in recent years he has given talks at schools and other organizations over the topics of geology and space. He is excited to bring his experience as a geologist and scientist to the Spaceflight Insider team writing primarily on space science topics.