The United Arab Emirates launched its first mission to Mars on Monday for a seven-month journey to the red planet before orbiting it and sending back data about the atmosphere, AP reported. This marks the Arab nation’s first interplanetary mission.

The liftoff of the Mars orbiter named “Al-Amal” in Arabic or the “Hope Probe” has been delayed twice due to bad weather. It took off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan aboard a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ H-IIA rocket. The solid rocket booster successfully separated from the launch vehicle and established radio communication with the mission on earth.

“The UAE is now a member of the club and we will learn more and we will engage more and we’ll continue developing our space exploration program,” UAE Space Agency chief Mohammed Al Ahbabi told a joint online news conference from Tanegashima.

Omran Sharaf, the UAE Mars mission director, told journalists in Dubai that the probe was sending signals that would be analysed later but everything appeared good.

Currently, there are eight active missions exploring Mars – some orbit the planet and some have landed on its surface. The UAE’s “Hope Probe” will not land on the Red Planet, but instead orbit it for a whole Martian year, or 687 days. The United States and China are also embarking on Mars missions this year.

The UAE first announced plans for the mission in 2014 and launched a National Space Programme in 2017 to develop local expertise. It has also set a goal to build a human colony on Mars by 2117.

A successful mission to Mars will help UAE develop its scientific and technological capabilities and reduce its reliance on oil.