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Al-Amal: Countdown begins as UAE to make history with launch of Mars probe on Japan rocket

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Tokyo, July 14: Final preparations for the launch from Japan of the United Arab Emirates' first Mars mission were underway Monday, but there was a chance of a delay because of bad weather, a Japanese rocket provider said.

Al-Amal: UAE to make history with launch of Mars probe on Japan rocket

The UAE's Hope Probe (Al Amal in Arabic) is the first Arab interplanetary mission. It is designed to orbit Mars and provide the first ever complete picture of the Martian atmosphere.

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The liftoff of the UAE's Mars orbiter named Amal, or Hope, on a Japanese H-IIA rocket is scheduled for early Wednesday from the Tanegashima Space Centre in southern Japan, in what would be the Arab world's first interplanetary mission.

A final decision will be made Tuesday before the roll out of the rocket, said Keiji Suzuki, launch site director for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. A seasonal rain front was expected to cause intermittent lightning and rain over the next few days, he said.

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    "But this thunder is not expected to be severe or lasting, and our assessment is that there will be a chance for a launch," Suzuki told an online briefing Monday from Tanegashima. "We will make a careful decision based on data."

    Heavy rain has continued for more than a week in large areas of Japan, triggering mudslides and floods and killing more than 70 people, most of them on the southern main island of Kyushu. Hope is set to reach Mars in February 2021, the year the UAE celebrates 50 years since its formation.

    A successful Hope mission would be a major step for the oil-dependent economy seeking a future in space. Hope carries three instruments to study the upper atmosphere and monitor climate change and is scheduled to circle the red planet for at least two years.

    Emirates Mars Mission Project Director Omran Sharaf, who joined Monday's briefing from Dubai, said the mission is not just a repeat of what other countries have done. It will provide a complete view of the Martian atmosphere during different seasons for the first time, he said. Two other Mars missions are planned in coming days by the US and China. Japan has its own Martian moon mission planned in 2024.

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