Missions to Mars have a tendency to struggle, with roughly half throughout history having failed. Only the U.S., Russia, Europe, and India have successfully orbited Mars, and only NASA has successfully landed and operated on the surface.

Hope is one of three missions to Mars launching in the coming weeks – a launch window to the Red Planet that opens every 26 months when our two planets align for the shortest traversal. This coming week it will be joined by China’s Tianwen-1 mission, also a first for the country, which includes both an orbiter and rover.

At the end of July, both of these missions will be joined by NASA’s Perseverance rover. Designed to land in an ancient Martian river delta, Perseverance will perform the most extensive search for life on Mars yet.

All three missions will arrive at Mars in February 2021. But it is Hope that is leading the armada, and following today’s successful launch, the UAE now has a major interplanetary mission under its belt.

“This is a great moment not just for the United Arab Emirates, but for all the international partners that are involved in exploring space,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said prior to the launch.

“The United Arab Emirates is a shining example of what can be done when we work together.”