1. The purpose or aim of the mission
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has set an ambitious goal of reaching Mars by the year 2117. The venture dubbed “Mars 2117 project” was presented during the 5th World Government summit held at the Emirates and is expected to be launched by mid-2021. According to Shaikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, the main purpose of the project is to create human settlement on Mars by the year 2117 as well as developing the capacity and skills of the Emiratis by developing learning and research institutions that will empower young Emiratis to pursue all disciplines of scientific research. The UAE plans to work with major international scientific institutions to speed up research that would make traveling to and from Mars as well as living on the planet, possible.
2. The material used in building the rocket and the reason for it
The rocket, known as Hope spacecraft will be built from aluminium in a stiff but lightweight honeycomb panels. Aluminum is used because it is lightweight and strong. These properties will enable the spacecraft to carry more weight and become fuel efficient. Once in Space, the craft will charge its batteries using three 600 watt batteries which are capable of charging the equivalent of twenty laptops. The Hope spacecraft will be hexagonal in shape and will have an estimated weight of 1500kgs which includes its fuel reserve. Navigation sensors will be installed on the Spacecraft to guide it towards the orbit of Mars. A high gain antenna with a width of 1.5m will be used to produce a narrow radio-wave that must point towards the Earth.
3. The equipment was taken based on the aim of the mission
Abode the craft will be an imager that will send back high-resolution color images to earth. Moreover, an infrared spectrometer and an ultraviolet spectrometer will be installed on the spacecraft with the purpose of the former being to examine the temperature patterns in the atmosphere while the latter studies the upper atmosphere and traces of oxygen and hydrogen further out into space. Furthermore, the spacecraft will have two sets of rocket thrusters; an eight 5-Newton RCS thrusters designed for delicate maneuvering and a six 120-Newton Delta V thrusters for braking and acceleration. Additionally, the spacecraft will be equipped with star trackers which will aid in navigation. For purposes of communication, the spacecraft will have an antenna which will produce a narrow radio wave that must point towards Earth. It will also be fitted with reaction wheels which will enable it to reorient itself while moving through space thereby helping point the antenna towards the position of Earth.
4. The type of crew needed
The crew members of the Emirates Mars project will be divided into seven groups namely: Spacecraft, Logistics, Mission Operations, Project Management, Science Education & Outreach, Ground Station and Launch Vehicle. The mission will only be carried out by Emirati engineers and scientists and is headed by the Project manager. The project manager is charged with managing the operations of the project 2117. The team will comprise of 75 members who will work together with research institutes to develop the mission’s science with the number expected to double before the year 2020.
5. The mission launching date and the reason for it
The scientific objective of the mission is to provide a complete image of the Martian atmosphere as it changes through the days and seasons. The United Arab Emirates plans to launch an unmanned spacecraft in July 2020 and is expected to reach Mars by the year 2021. It will be launched using a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries launcher (H-IIA) in Japan. The launch date coincides with the period when Earth and Mars will be aligned. The alignment which occurs once after every 26 months will enable efficient transfer between earth and Mars.
6. A description of Mars topology and atmosphere
Mars, also known as the Red Planet is the size equivalent to the radius of the earth. The atmosphere of the planet is roughly 100 times thinner than that of earth and is made up of 95% carbon dioxide, 0.13% of Oxygen and other gases such as Nitrogen, Argon and Carbon monoxide in small proportions. The planet also has the same amount of dry land which is equivalent to that of Earth whilst also possessing no global magnetic field. Due to the tilt of its rotational axis, the planet experiences climatic seasons. The surface of Mars has been altered by volcanoes, impact craters and atmospheric conditions such as dust storms. Not only does Mars have the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons, but also the stunning equatorial canyon system, Valles Marineris which has an estimated depth and length of 8km and 3000km respectively. Additionally, recent discoveries have shown hydrogen-rich polar deposits in the Mars Odyssey orbiter on the Red Planet which points to the presence of large quantities of water ice close to the surface. Liquid water does not exist on the surface of Mars for long because of the cold temperatures and thin atmosphere of the planet. Finally, the planet has two potato-shaped moons, Phobos and Deimos. Phobos, which is the innermost moon, is heavily cratered with deep grooves on its surface.
7. The pathway and length of the expedition
The Hope spacecraft is expected to be launched at a speed of 39600km/h and will take approximately 200 days cruising from Earth to Mars covering a distance of more than 60 million kilometres. The spacecraft will first enter the elliptical shaped (wide wide-oval) orbit and then later move into a closer scientific orbit. The altitude of science orbit is estimated to be between 22000-44,000 kilometres. The Hope spacecraft is expected to take an orbit period of 55 hours and is expected to reach Mars by mid-2021. The expedition is expected to take last two years to study the atmosphere of Mars and an additional two years to collect secondary data from the planet.
8. Dangers and difficulties that might be faced
Being the first major expedition by the UAE in space exploration, there are several factors that could pose difficulties during the journey. First, the earth and Mars align every twenty-six months. If there is any delay in launching the spacecraft at the specified date, the mission will have to be postponed by another 26 months. In addition, the project is risky since there is no guarantee for its success. Attention to detail is important for the success of this ambitious expedition and any misguided information may pose disastrous consequences to the mission.