The United Arab Emirates' first-ever interplanetary mission is well on its way to Mars and has the photos to prove it.
The UAE's Hope probe launched from Japan toward Mars on July 19, representing the first time an Arab nation has gone beyond Earth's orbit. Now, the spacecraft is already one fifth of the way through its long journey, according to a statement from the program.
"The Hope probe is officially 100 million km [60 million miles] into its journey to the Red Planet," Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, prime minister of the UAE, wrote on Twitter on Monday (Aug. 24). "Mars, as demonstrated in the image captured by the probe's star tracker, is ahead of us, leaving Saturn and Jupiter behind. The Hope probe is expected to arrive to Mars in February 2021."
The star tracker is designed to keep Hope on course, telling the spacecraft precisely where it is. In addition, the probe carries a more traditional camera for use once it arrives at Mars and begins its science work.
Between launch and arrival, the Hope team expects the spacecraft will need to perform about a half dozen trajectory correction maneuvers to finetune its path toward the Red Planet. The first of those took place earlier this month.
Book of Mars: $22.99 at Magazines Direct
Within 148 pages, explore the mysteries of Mars. With the latest generation of rovers, landers and orbiters heading to the Red Planet, we're discovering even more of this world's secrets than ever before. Find out about its landscape and formation, discover the truth about water on Mars and the search for life, and explore the possibility that the fourth rock from the sun may one day be our next home.
"We have accomplished our first trajectory correction maneuver, which was the first test of Mars Hope's propulsion and trajectory control systems, as well as the first time the spacecraft's six Delta-V thrusters have been activated," Omran Sharaf, project director for the mission, said in a statement. "That 21-second burn put us firmly on track toward Mars. We're delighted with the performance of Mars Hope so far."
Once Hope arrives safely in orbit around Mars, the spacecraft will set about studying the Red Planet's climate and atmosphere for at least one local year (nearly two Earth years).
Email Meghan Bartels at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
Get the Space.com Newsletter
Breaking space news, the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more!
Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.