A Japanese H-IIA rocket carrying a United Arab Emirates Mars spacecraft took off in what is the Arab world's first interplanetary mission.
The launch of the orbiter -- named "Amal" in Arabic, or "Hope" -- from Tanegashima Space Center on a small southern Japanese island was initially scheduled for this past Wednesday, but was delayed due to bad weather in the region, reported The Associated Press.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the provider of the H-IIA rocket, announced earlier on Sunday that the launch would proceed at 6:58 a.m. Monday (2158 GMT Sunday).
The preparation has been completed, and the rocket is now on the launch pad, Mitsubishi said.
Hope is expected to reach Mars in February 2021, the year the UAE. celebrates 50 years since its formation. The Emirates have set ambitious plans for space, including pledging to build the first inhabitable human settlement on Mars by 2117, noted AP.
While raising eyebrows with that goal, the UAE has successfully built a space program with local talent working out of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in Dubai. The Hope probe was built there by a program co-operating with other nations to quickly reach out to the stars. The UAE already sent its first astronaut to space last year on an eight-day mission to the International Space Station.
Two other Mars missions are planned in the coming days by the US and China. Japan has its own Martian moon mission planned for 2024.
The UAE has so far successfully launched three observation satellites, but has not gone beyond the Earth's orbit.