The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will launch its first-ever interplanetary mission today (July 19), and you can watch the historic liftoff live.
The Emirates Mars Mission, also known as Hope, is scheduled to launch atop an H-IIA rocket from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center today at 5:58 p.m. EDT (2158 GMT; 6:58 a.m. July 20 Japan Standard Time. You can follow the action live here at Space.com courtesy of the UAE Space Agency and the Dubai One news channel, or directly via the latter two organizations here.
If all goes according to plan, the $200 million Hope mission will arrive in Mars orbit in early 2021, then study the Red Planet from above for at least one Mars year (a little less than two Earth years).
The mission will provide a more detailed and comprehensive understanding of the Martian atmosphere, team members have said. Key to that goal is Hope's unique equator-circling orbit, which will give the probe a new perspective of the Red Planet's thin, carbon dioxide-dominated air.
Hope isn't the only spacecraft heading to Mars this summer. China aims to launch its first fully homegrown Mars mission — Tianwen-1, which features an orbiter, lander and rover — on July 23. (China's first Mars craft of any kind, the Yinghuo-1 orbiter, rode along with Russia's Phobos-Grunt mission, which suffered a launch failure in November 2011.) And NASA's life-hunting, sample-caching Perseverance rover is scheduled to lift off on July 30.
It's imperative that these missions get off the ground relatively soon — in Perseverance's case, by Aug. 15. Launch windows for Mars-bound craft come around just once every 26 months, when Earth and the Red Planet are properly aligned.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.