Hope takes its first image of Mars 24,700km above the Red Planet

The UAE’s Hope probe has taken its first image of Mars while orbiting about 24,700km above the Red Planet.

The Emirati probe reached Mars’ orbit on its first attempt, on February 9, 2021, after a seven-month long journey from Earth.

The colour image of Mars, taken by the probe, was posted on Twitter on February 14, 2021, by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who tweeted: “The first picture of Mars captured by the first-ever Arab probe in history, 25,000 km above the Red Planet’s surface.”

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, commented on the Mars image on Twitter: “The transmission of the Hope Probe’s first image of Mars is a defining moment in our history and marks the UAE joining advanced nations involved in space exploration. We hope this mission will lead to new discoveries about Mars which will benefit humanity.”

Beneficial elliptical orbit

As Hope is currently in an elliptical orbit around Mars its primary on-board camera is uniquely positioned to capture the planet in its entirety.

The probe’s initial elliptical orbit around Mars takes it from as close as 1,000km from the planet’s surface to approximately 50,000km out.

The image of Mars was taken by Hope’s Emirates Exploration Imager (EXI) multi-wavelength camera on February 10, 2021.

The image was put together from RGB spectrums, to form the composite image.

One of three scientific instruments onboard, EXI is designed to take 12-megapixel images of Mars while maintaining crucial radiometric calibration.

The EXI’s sensor can capture 180 frames per second at full resolution, and is capable of taking 4K movie.

Key tasks for the EXI camera include capturing high-resolution images of the Red Planet, studying the lower atmosphere of Mars in visible and ultraviolet bands, measuring the optical depth of ice water in the atmosphere, and measuring the column abundance of ozone in the planet’s atmosphere.

Hope is the first planetary mission of an Arab nation and coincides with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai was tasked with the construction and operation of the Hope probe as part of the Emirates Mars Mission.

The project is financed by the Abu-Dhabi-based UAE Space Agency.