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UAE’s Launch Kicks Off a Trio of Mars Missions as Planet Draws Close

  • The two planets are aligned for six weeks every two years
  • China, the UAE and U.S. will launch orbiters and land rovers
The UAE’s Hope probe launched from Japan on Sunday night and is slated to reach Mars in February 2021.
The UAE’s Hope probe launched from Japan on Sunday night and is slated to reach Mars in February 2021.Source: UAE Space Agency/Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre
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It’s a busy time for Mars exploration as the red planet’s biennial proximity with Earth will see three new missions launched within the next month.

As Mars draws within about 36 million miles of its neighbor -- the closest it’s been in two years -- the United Arab Emirates, China and the U.S. are sending probes to take advantage of the nearness. The UAE launched its mission Sunday, with the U.S. and China to follow later this month and next.