The Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab country, announced it had started its transition from its capture orbit to its science orbit with the successful completion of a 510 second (8.36 minutes) burn of its thrusters.
Barring the requirement for a minor course correction, the spacecraft is now in its final orbit of Mars and ready for its two-year science data gathering phase – the core aim of the mission.
The transition saw the Hope Probe move from its 1,063 by 42,461 capture orbit to a 20,000 by 43,000 science orbit. The manoeuvre was the last scheduled ‘big burn’ in the spacecraft’s journey from its launch on the 20th July 2020.
The science phase will start on 14 April with a number of calibration and test runs that aim to establish a sound baseline for the accurate and efficient management of the measurements from the spacecraft’s three instruments.
The mission’s two-year science data collection will formally commence on 23 May 2021, with data being made available globally in October.
The painstaking process of science data gathering consists of making repeated ‘passes’ around Mars and mapping each set of measurements to build a dynamic picture of the movement of dust, ice and water vapour throughout the planet’s atmospheric layers.
As well as measuring Hydrogen, Oxygen, Carbon Monoxide and Ozone, the probe will capture variations in temperature. The unique elliptical 25-degree orbit of the Hope probe enables a planet-wide, high resolution sample to be taken each 225 hours (9.5 days).
The Hope probe carries three science instruments: EXI – The Emirates eXploration Imager is a 12 megapixel digital camera that captures high-resolution images of Mars along with measuring water ice and ozone in the lower atmosphere through the UV bands.
EMIRS – The Emirates Mars InfraRed Spectrometer collects information on surface and atmospheric temperatures and measures the global distribution of dust, ice cloud, and water vapor in the Martian lower atmosphere.