This week, a United Arab Emirates spacecraft, the Mars orbiter Hope, successfully entered the orbit around Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor.

The probe is the first since NASA’s Insight lander in November 2018 to reach the planet. The successful arrival at Mars makes the UAE the fifth nation to reach Mars, following the United States, Russia, China and India.

“After all of these years, it’s been achieved, today, by the UAE, and it is just an incredible moment. It’s such an honor to have such a moment,” Fahad Al Mheiri, an executive director with the UAE Space Agency, said during a live broadcast.

Hope (or Al Amal in Arabic) will study the Martian atmosphere for at least two years.

It was successfully followed a day later by a Chinese mission.

Tianwen-1, or “Questions to Heaven”, comprises an orbiter and a rover.

Engineers will bide their time before despatching the wheeled robot to the surface but the expectation is that this will happen in May or June.

Wednesday’s orbit insertion underlines again the rapid progress China’s space programme is making.

It follows December’s impressive mission to retrieve rock and soil samples from Earth’s Moon – by any measure a very complex undertaking.

With space being the new “high ground” in terms of defense strategy, it is an excellent time to see what plans the new administration has regarding the top-rated space program. Fortunately, the news is not as bad as one might fear.

The US Space Force, popular with President Donald Trump’s supporters, is officially here to stay.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters during a Feb. 3 briefing that the new service has the “full support” of the Biden administration.

“We’re not revisiting the decision,” she said.

The Artemis Mission to the Moon is still on track.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the news at a briefing on Thursday.

“I’m very excited about it now – to tell my daughter all about it,” Ms Psaki said, adding: “Through the Artemis programme, the United States government will work with industry and international partners to send astronauts to the surface of the Moon – another man and a woman to the Moon.”

She explained that the missions would carry out “new and exciting science, prepare for future missions to Mars and demonstrate America’s values.”

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has selected SpaceX to deliver the first two segments of the moon-orbiting Gateway space station for the Artemis program.

The flight, which is the second to be awarded to SpaceX this week (the first was a contract worth $98.8 million to launch NASA’s SPHEREx astrophysics mission) will carry the Gateway’s power and habitation modules. Launching from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the mission will cost NASA $331.8 million and is scheduled to blast off no earlier than May 2024.

Once deposited in lunar orbit, the Gateway will serve as an outpost for astronauts and equipment heading to the moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program. Roughly one-sixth the size of the International Space Station, the Gateway will support research investigations, crew, and expeditions to the lunar surface.

Finally, NASA is just over a week away from landing another Mars lander. The technology is so advanced that, for the first time, we’ll be able to see and hear what it’s like to touch down on another world.

Perseverance is due to land in Jezero Crater on Thursday, Feb. 18, becoming the first artificial object to land on the surface since the Mars Insight lander in 2018 and the first rover since Curiosity touched down in 2012.

But the new rover on the block is carrying more audio-visual gear than its predecessors to capture portions of the pivotal entry, descent and landing, or EDL, phase of the mission. A camera mounted on the back shell of the spacecraft is pointed up and will be able to catch a view of the parachutes that will deploy during descent to slow Perseverance as it comes in for its landing. Beneath this is a downward-pointing camera on the descent stage, which further slows and orients the rover for landing.

Perseverance may be the most aptly named mission in quite some time. Here is a sneak preview from the Jet Propulsion Lab:


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