United Arab Emirates Publishes First Photo from Mars Probe

Associated Press

Sunday February 14, 2021

This Feb. 10, 2021 image taken by the United Arab Emirates' "Amal," or "Hope," probe was released Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, shows Mars
This Feb. 10, 2021 image taken by the United Arab Emirates' "Amal," or "Hope," probe was released Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, shows Mars  (Source:Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center/UAE Space Agency, via AP)

The United Arab Emirates on Sunday published the first image for its Mars probe now circling the red planet.

The picture, taken Wednesday, shows sunlight just coming across the surface of Mars. It shows Mars' north pole, as well as Mars' largest volcano, Olympus Mons.

The image comes from its "Amal," or "Hope," space probe.

The probe swung into orbit around Mars on Tuesday in a triumph for the Arab world's first interplanetary mission.

A Chinese spacecraft went into orbit around Mars on Wednesday on an expedition to land a rover on the surface and scout for signs of ancient life. A U.S. rover is set to arrive next week.

Landing a spacecraft on Mars is notoriously difficult. Smashed Russian and European spacecraft litter the landscape along with a failed U.S. lander. About a dozen orbiters missed the mark. In 2011, a Mars-bound Chinese orbiter that was part of a Russian mission didn't make it out of Earth orbit.

Only the U.S. has successfully touched down on Mars — eight times, beginning with two Viking missions in the 1970s. An American lander and rover are in operation today.

China's attempt will involve a parachute, rocket firings and airbags. Its proposed landing site is a vast, rock-strewn plain called Utopia Planitia, where the U.S. Viking 2 lander touched down in 1976.

Before the arrival this week of the Chinese spacecraft and the UAE's orbiter, six other spacecraft were already operating around Mars: Three U.S., two European and one Indian.

All three of the latest missions were launched in July to take advantage of the close alignment between Earth and Mars that happens only once every two years.

A NASA rover called Perseverance is aiming for a Feb. 18 landing. It, too, will search for signs of ancient microscopic life, collecting rocks that will be returned to Earth in about a decade.

China's secretive, military-linked space program has racked up a series of achievements. In December, it brought moon rocks back to Earth for the first time since the 1970s. China was also the first country to land a spacecraft on the little-explored far side of the moon in 2019.

China is also building a permanent space station and planning a crewed lunar mission and a possible permanent research base on the moon, though no dates have yet been proposed.

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