Mars mission arrives in orbit the spacecraft known as hope, launched towards mars back on the 19th of july 2020 and once in orbit, it will spend its time examining the atmosphere that surrounds the planet. This is the first planetary mission put on by the united arab emirates, but it’s, not their last. The nation has grand plans for the red planet today, i’m talking to hasa al matrushi, the science lead on the emirates mars mission. Welcome to the podcast hassa, the emirates. Mars mission is due to arrive at mars this month, but what will it be looking at when it gets there? So the earth mars mission, including the whole probe, are targeting to study the atmosphere of mars. So the whole probe would be looking into the different layers of mars we’re, looking into the lower atmosphere of mars to understand the climate and the different constituents and how they vary in daily basis and even subseasonally. And then we would be looking at the upper atmosphere of mars, specifically into two different layers like the thermosphere of mars, where we would be looking into the carbon monoxide and oxygen and then the exosphere of mars, which is the upper layer of the upper atmosphere. Where we’d be looking into the hydrogen and oxygen and specifically like the escape of both of them as like we’ve noticed that they’ve been escaping mars and the atmosphere of mars is thin. So we would like to understand like if there is a connection between the layers.

How the processes are interacted together if there are like changes in the lower atmosphere? How that impacts the upper atmosphere, and even if there are events like dust storms happening out there like? How does the processes like work together and what are the scientific goals of the mission, so the earth mars mission has three scientific objectives. The first objective is to characterize the lower atmosphere of mars. The second objective is about correlating the climate of of mars, like the conditions and changes that happens in the lower atmosphere, to correlate it with the escape of hydrogen and oxygen and the upper atmosphere. And then the third objective is about characterizing, the exosphere of mars. Could you just quickly explain what the exosphere of mars is? The exosphere of mars is the upward layer. Um of the atmosphere like it ranges from uh to the upper atmosphere is 200 kilometers and above so this is the place where hydrogen and oxygen are escaping mars. So that’s, why? Like it’s, very interesting, because this is the topper layer and we’re looking into the escape of the water component, so we’d like to understand why they are escaping what’s, the rate of escape and what’s? What are like the different factors that are happening in the atmosphere that may make the escape increase or decrease over the seasons, and why is it important to study these things? What can they tell us about mars in its history? So when we look at mars right now, like it’s a bear land, however, like it, has a lot of service evidence that mars had water.

Before, like there are traces of river like there are like uh. The rocks that they are there like indicates that there might have been an ocean out there, and it indicates that mars have had the potential of a thick atmosphere compared to this in atmosphere like it had right now, like we’re talking about four billion years ago. So like, we would like to understand the transition like what happened to mars like why, like it was, it was a planet very similar to earth like it had a thick atmosphere. It has the right environment to sustain liquid water on the surface, but right now it doesn’t have all these kind of conditions. So, like we won’t like to understand the transition like that happened to the planet and that’s. Why? Like understanding the escape is one of the most important processes that scientists believe that it might have been a key role into the transition of mars over the last 50 years, a lot of probes have gone to mars, and several of those have been looking at its Atmosphere, what is it about hope that makes it different that’s, a very good question, because um like looking at the instrumentation suit? One might think that we’re doing something repetitive but it’s not like one of the key things that the united arab emirates wanted to do is bring novel science to the science community. So before we even set our objectives, we went to the community to understand the needs and what are like the type of data that is needed to complement the science that is already existing.

So one of the things that is very unique about this mission is, it will give us information of urinal information about the martian atmosphere. So previously, before, like we had missions which look at the atmosphere at specific times, so, for example, at 2 a.m, 2 p.m. So we don’t have like the comprehensive understanding at every hour, what happens in the martian atmosphere, so there are like missing links and information in there and then the second thing, if we were able like to look at it in the urinal valley, we don’t have like The big view global information, so we might understand a specific place on mars, but not globally how it behaves so that’s. What makes the mission unique? It will give us like a comprehensive, a complete picture of the martian atmosphere like covering it durantly subseasonally for a whole martian year. You’Ve talked a lot about what you’re looking at. But how are you going to look at it? What are the the instruments on board? Hope the whole probe have three scientific instruments, so we have like the first one emirates exploration, imager like it’s exi, so it’s, a camera 12 megapixel uh exi would be able to give us like colorful images of mars. So it has like a red, green and blue buzz, but it has even like three uv bands, which would be able like to give us information about water, ice and ozone. And then we have like the second one, which is emirates, mars, infrared spectrometer.

We call it eemers. This is an infrared spectrometer. It will give us information about atmospheric temperature, surface temperature, the dust distribution like uh, the water ice, the water vapor as well in the martian, lower atmosphere specifically, and then we have the third instrument which is emer’s mars. Ultraviolet spectrometer. Immune immune is an instrument that will look at the upper atmosphere like the thermosphere and exosphere of mars, so it will give us information about carbon monoxide oxygen and even hydrogen. One of the big questions that always gets asked anytime something’s happening at mars is: will this help us look for life? Will the emirates mars mission help to answer any of those questions that we have surrounding life past or present on mars? So the objectives of the emergence, mars mission and the data that we will get from the whole probe will give us a lot of information about the martian atmosphere. The present martian atmosphere how it behaves: um, the water circulation and there like how it reacts to the different events. This will ultimately helps add on our understanding to mars as a whole planet, and we cannot like take every science as independently, like all the sciences play together, to give us understanding of mars of the planet and its habitability, and whether, like mars, connected before, like to Have like a supportive environment that can have like um like life in there or not. This is the emirates first really big planetary mission.

Why did you choose to make the leap and go straight for mars, that’s very true, so it’s emerson, mars mission is the first planetary mission that uae had undertaken. Previously we had a lot of earth satellites orbiting mars and we have like developed the capability to do that. But we like to like. We have like different programmatic objective, and this is why we’re going to mars like there are scientific reasons, and then we have like programmatic objectives. If we’re talking about programmatic objectives, why the uae government set a mars mission, then we have like four like three key ones. Like one, we would like to develop the science and technology sector in the united arab emirates, so missions in general, like space missions, do accelerate like the development of these two sectors like very rapidly, and then we have like the second one, which is developing a minority. Scientific capabilities so like within the missions that we had before, like a lot of engineering capabilities, were developed, but we wanted to develop further the mri scientific capabilities. So a scientific mission was more fitting to do this job and then the third thing is. We would like to increase like the emirates contribution to the global science community in the space and the field of planetary science, so that was like the programmatic objective, why the mission was set to be and then as a destination planets march, from a scientific perspective like Mars, as i as i’ve mentioned, like four billion years ago, it looked like earth.

It had a very thick atmosphere. It had like water flowing in there, so it’s very close to earth, and it looks very similar so understanding the changes in the transition of mars. From four billions years ago to now would give us a lot of information and maybe teach us about earth itself as a planet, because we’re all in the same solar system, so information about our neighboring planet will help us understand our own planet as well. Now i understand that the uae has some pretty impressive plans for mars. So what are your long term goals with this mission? So united arab emirates had set a vision mars to 117? It was announced like in 2017. It was a hundred years program looking into settlement of mars, so this shows, like the emirates, dedication into um developing capabilities when it comes like to planetary exploration, into uh, looking at mars as a long term goal – and there are like this – is a hundred year plan When it was announced in 2017, but it was a very realistic plan and it takes a lot of steps to reach in there. So the irs mars mission is just the first step in there, but a lot of projects will come in to develop the technology side. To how we can achieve such visions and then the scientific side, and then there will be a lot of outreach as well like how to inspire the students to go more into science and technology, how to develop their capabilities, how to provide research opportunities um when it Comes like to engaging the community and such sciences so we’re able to reach the school.

It certainly sounds like the uae, as a nation is getting really heavily invested in this mission. But what is it that you personally are looking forward to with this mission? Be it something that’s happening at home or something on mars. The name of the probe hope is just a very much inspiration to everyone, because this is what the mission is all about is about inspiring youth like showing them like a small country like the united arab emirates, like attempting to do a huge mission and which is Currently doing and it’s very successful as it is, so this is the kind of um like spirit that we would like to put into use like dream. Big. And if you have a goal which is clear in front of you and then you have the right approach and implementation into it, then you can attain your goals. That is what is most inspiring about. This mission, like i’ve, been engaged a lot with the community and outreach activities with school students, university students, researchers in there and, like i, take this goal like very close to my heart, about bringing them closer to science, because we want more scientists in the field. More technology – and this is how we get innovation uh, going on and being like part of the global community, like uh, contributing to them actively and providing like novel data that can be of the benefit of humanity. I think that’s, a lovely sentiment to end on.

Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us today, hassa and we all are very much looking forward to seeing what hope has to offer in the future. Well, thank you so much elizabeth.