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Mars seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo: NASA/ESA/STScI

The United Arab Emirates' Hope spacecraft launched Sunday on a journey to Mars.

Why it matters: This mission, which launched on an H2-A rocket from Japan, marks the UAE's first mission to Mars. It kicks off the first of three missions to the Red Planet this summer, with China and the U.S. to follow in the coming weeks.

Details: The Hope probe is designed to orbit Mars and gather data about the world's weather from above, filling in gaps in scientific knowledge left by previous missions.

  • The probe's instruments will be able to track the day-to-night cycle of the planet's weather on a global scale.
  • The UAE sees this homegrown mission as a way of fostering scientific and technical expertise in the country and in the Middle East as a whole.
  • Hope will now fly through space until it reaches its orbit around Mars in about seven months.

Background: The Hope probe isn't the UAE's first foray into space, and it isn't the end of its ambitions.

  • In 2019, the first Emirati astronaut, Hazzaa Al Mansoori, launched on a mission to the International Space Station.
  • The UAE is also expected to launch a mission to the Moon in 2022.

The big picture: Space has become a marker of geopolitical status in recent years. Smaller nations have been able to send their own satellites to orbit due to lowered launch and development costs.

  • But even so, Mars missions are usually reserved for only those space agencies with the most resources and support.
  • The Hope mission — if it successfully orbits Mars — vaults the UAE into that small, elite club.

Go deeper: The summer of Mars

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Oct 27, 2020 - Science

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins on his return to space

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Anadolu Agency, Jim Watson/Getty Images

NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins is slated to head back to the International Space Station next month for his first flight to orbit since 2013.

Why it matters: Hopkins will command the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft that will take him and three other crewmembers — NASA's Shannon Walker and Victor Glover and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi — to the station as part of the capsule's first crewed, non-test flight to orbit.

9 mins ago - Health

A safe, sane survival guide

Photo: Luka Dakskobler/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

We all know, it’s getting worse.

Reality check: Here are a few things every one of us can do to stay safe and sane in coming months:

Biden's debut nightmare

President-elect Biden speaks in Wilmington on Nov. 24. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

A dim, gloomy scene seems increasingly set for Joe Biden's debut as president.

The state of play: He'll address — virtually — a virus-weary nation, with record-high daily coronavirus deaths, a flu season near its peak, restaurants and small businesses shuttered by wintertime sickness and spread.

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