In the early morning hours of July 20 on Tanegashima, a small island just off the southern coast of Kyushu, Japan, a 174-foot rocket roared to life and lifted a spacecraft on the first leg of a 306-million-mile journey to Mars.
The spacecraft itself, however, is not Japanese. Called al-Amal, or “Hope,” it was designed and managed by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in the United Arab Emirates. Safely separated now from the Japanese rocket, the probe will fire its own thrusters to leave Earth orbit for Mars in about 28 days, arriving in February 2021 to complete the first interplanetary voyage initiated by an Arab country.
“It was an indescribable feeling,” Sarah al-Amiri, the UAE’s minister of advanced science