How the UAE got a spacecraft to Mars – on the first try

Knowing more about the Martian climate may help the way we study long-term weather patterns here on Earth, including what long-term climate change might mean.

“Mars went through a major transformation billions of years ago,” says Al Matroushi. “And it is important to understand such processes of how Mars appeared in the past. Because we want to understand what happened to our planet, because there are some similarities between us. I would not say that we are exactly like the the same – for example, we have a great magnetic field that protects us from the Sun, Mars doesn’t have that. It doesn’t have the protection that we have. So that could contribute to why drastic changes happen.”

Hope’s primary Mars mission will last one Martian year, equivalent to two years on Earth. But Al Matrushi’s scientific team is already looking beyond that. “During this year when we had our observations, the Sun was not high in its activity – we were not at the peak of the solar cycle.” That could change if the mission is extended, which would lead to some very different observations. “Right now we are seeing a lot of solar activity ramping up [Mars’] atmosphere?”

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With an understanding that the UAE team would provide a deeper insight into the past. “Because trying to understand how such activities are affecting the Martian atmosphere in terms of climate escape, dust storms, and so on, it can give some guidance us about what happened, or contributed to those changes. which we have seen in the past. And we can get some insights that could help us on Earth as well.”

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The weather was not the only discovery. In August 2022, Hope sent back the first detailed images of a “tragic aurora” in the upper atmosphere of Mars, suggesting a chaotic meeting point between the planet’s atmosphere and solar winds. Scientists previously expected Mars’ auroras to be fairly uniform.

Hope’s mission will extend until next February, if anything goes according to plan. Al Matroushi is already looking forward to what he has in store in the coming months. “No Mars year will be the same,” she says. For example, this has been a mild year for dust storms – although there have been some regional storms, there hasn’t really been a global storm. “I can only imagine if we were able to observe such storms that engulf the entire planet.” The excitement in her voice is palpable, even over Zoom. “It is very exciting. There is a lot of science to solve.”

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