Probe set for Mars after historic launch
The United Arab Emirates has sent a probe on a seven-month journey to Mars, marking the country's first interplanetary space mission.
The Hope Probe was sent into space on a Mitsubishi-built H-IIA rocket from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre on Monday morning.
The rocket took off just before 8am on Monday morning (AEST) and the probe is set to separate from the rocket and head for Mars after around an hour.
It's due to arrive in the Red Planet's orbit in February of next year, where it will spend time monitoring the atmosphere, and also celebrate the UAE's 50-year anniversary of its founding.
The UAE's ambassador to the US said the launch marks the start of more Emirati accomplishments in space.
"Years of hard work and dedication have paid off in a big way," Mr Al Otaiba said following the launch.
"This is a huge accomplishment, but it's just the beginning," he added.
The probe "will help answer key questions about the global Martian atmosphere and the loss of hydrogen and oxygen gases into space over the span of one Martian year," the mission's website reads.
Earth and Mars are currently closely aligned in their respective orbits, providing a small window to launch a mission to the planet that only comes around roughly every two years.
The probe will still have to travel around 55 million kilometres to reach orbit with Mars, and is competing with missions from the US and China.
"It's a very small target," mission partner University of Colorado program manager Pete Withnell told reporters prior to launch.
"It's equivalent to an archer hitting a two-millimetre target, one kilometre away, so this is not for the faint of heart."
Originally published as Probe set for Mars after historic launch