The UAE’s Hope probe, also known as the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), is expected to ship to Japan ahead of schedule so that essential engineering personnel can be ready to prepare the spacecraft for its planned July 2020 launch, according to an official from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC).
The early shipment of the Hope spacecraft to Japan was decided so as to allow MBRSC engineers traveling with the probe to apply for special Japanese travel visas that can except them from the strict Emirati and Japanese travel restrictions in place to help stop the spread of the novel Coronavirus.
In addition to the special visa requirements – in itself a time consuming process – the Emirati engineers will also have to quarantine themselves for fourteen days once they arrive in Japan in order to ensure that they are not contagious with the Coronavirus, according to Omran Sharaf, the EMM project manager at the MBRSC, speaking to the virtual 38thmeeting of the NASA Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) on 20 April 2020.
The Hope probe spacecraft is due to start integration with its Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) H-IIA space launch vehicle in May 2020 at the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan, and at the end of its launch preparation campaign, is scheduled to launch from there starting 15 July 2020 when a three-week launch window for Mars begins.
Once launched, the Hope spacecraft is expected to take seven months to reach Mars orbit, and is expected to arrive there in time for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Arab Emirates.
The Hope EMM will then contribute to humanity’s understanding of Mars by monitoring the Martian atmosphere and its role in the planet’s climate.