Hope, the Eye in Mars’ Sky

Jennifer R. Povey
3 min readFeb 15, 2021
Photo by Luca Rüegg on Unsplash

Three Mars missions, and most of the buzz is about Perseverance, NASA’s rover, which will attempt planetfall on Thursday.

A lot fewer people are talking about Hope…but Hope is also going to play a key role in our future exploration of the red planet.

What is Hope?

Hope (more correctly الأمل‎ or Al Amal) is a probe that is designed to orbit Mars for at least one Martian year, which is 687 days.

It is orbiting at a much higher altitude than most Mars orbiters. Most Mars missions have been established to study the surface of the planet, and both Perseverance and the Chinese Tianwen-1 mission are designed to look for signs of life.

Hope has a different mission.

It’s there to look at the weather.

Photo by Christian Lischka SJ on Unsplash

What Hope Will Tell Us?

We know some stuff about Martian weather, because our rovers have experienced it. Dramatic opening of The Martian aside, the weather on Mars tends to be fairly gentle, if very dusty, due to the low atmospheric pressure.

From its higher altitude (the final orbit is going to be between 22,000km and 43,000km) Hope will be able to look at the entire planet at once. The science is going to:

  1. Look at how energy moves from the bottom to the top of the atmosphere. This will give us strong insights into the Martian climate.
  2. Study atmospheric loss, which will tell us more about why Mars is not habitable.
  3. Take some really nice pictures of the atmosphere to study the amounts and properties of ice, water vapor, dust, and ozone.
  4. Measure variability of the thermosphere.

But it’s basically all about the weather. If we’re going to send people to Mars, they will want weather forecasts. Hope is going to give us the baseline information we need to be able to start moving towards doing that. (Which will also help future rover missions).

Who Made Hope?

Jennifer R. Povey

I write about fantasy, science fiction and horror, LGBT issues, travel, and social issues.