Masdar to help UAE in leap to red planet

Students to chip in with research for developing space technology

By Silvia Radan/staff Reporter

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Published: Mon 25 May 2015, 12:29 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 10:39 PM

Abu Dhabi - Students from Masdar Institute of Science and Technology are getting involved in the UAE’s Mars mission, helping mostly with the research for developing the space technology that will allow a probe — an unmanned spacecraft — to travel to the red planet by 2021.

The UAE robotic spacecraft is not meant to land on Mars, but to orbit the planet and to measure atmospheric data, something that no other Mars probes have done before. If successful, the Emirati probe could bring home the answer to what happened to Mars’ oceans, which used to cover the red planet a few billion years ago, indicating the possibility of life.

The probe is planned to leave Earth in 2020 and complete the approximately nine months journey of 60 million kilometres by the end of 2021, in time for the UAE’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

“The team we have set up is tasked with ensuring that Masdar Institute is able to support the UAE’s Mars mission to the fullest, capitalising on the diverse and high-value expertise of our faculty, our programmes, our students and our research infrastructure,” said Dr Mohammed Sassi, interim Dean of Faculty and Professor of Mechanical and Materials Science at Masdar Institute.

It is estimated that 150 Emirati scientists and engineers will be needed to work on the Mars mission by 2020. In response to the growing need for engineers and technical specialists with relevant training in space technologies, Masdar Institute is establishing dedicated graduate level space-oriented education programmes to form and train UAE Nationals in fields relevant to the UAE space agency mission.

In addition to its own academic programmes, Masdar Institute has established the UAE Chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society, which aims to engage in active collaborations with various universities and government agencies in the UAE.

“The UAE has already invested $5.4 billion in space technologies. Collaboration between the industry and academia warrants a sustainable growth to the Emirati space industry through knowledge creation. The benefits of such collaboration are mutual to both parties. The industry will have access to cutting-edge scientific research and specialised equipment, as well as the invaluable experience that researchers bring to the table,” said Dr Saif Al Mheiri, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Masdar Institute.

Next week, Masdar Institute will propose some new applications of its research to the needs of the Mars mission at the upcoming Global Space and Satellite Forum, to be held in Abu Dhabi on May 26-27.

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