Deep-space ventures by the UAE, US and China will arrive at Earth’s planetary neighbour this month.
The United Arab Emirates’ first mission to Mars has entered the red planet’s orbit after a seven-month, 494 million kilometres (307 million miles) journey, allowing it to start sending data about the Martian atmosphere and climate.
Officials at mission control broke into applause on Tuesday, visibly relieved after a tense half-hour as Amal, Arabic for hope, carried out a “burn” to slow itself enough to be pulled in by the Martian gravity.
“Contact with #HopeProbe has been established again. The Mars Orbit Insertion is now complete,” the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) said.
“To the people of the UAE, to the Arab and Muslim nations, we announce the successful arrival to Mars orbit. Praise be to God,” said Omran Sharaf, the mission’s project manager.
Amal had to perform a series of turns and engine firings to manoeuvre into orbit, reducing its speed to 18,000kmph (11,200mph) from more than 121,000kmph (75,000mph).
Tuesday’s announcement makes UAE’s space agency the fifth to reach Mars.
Probes launched by China and NASA just after the UAE’s lift-off in July last year are also set to reach the planet this month.
The Emirates Mars Mission, which has cost approximately $200m, launched the Hope Probe from a Japanese space centre.
The Mars programme is part of the UAE’s efforts to develop its scientific and technological capabilities and reduce its reliance on oil. Its space agency has a plan for a Mars settlement by 2117.
It aims to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere for the first time, studying daily and seasonal changes.