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'Emirates Mission to Mars inspires Arab youth to dream big'

anamika@khaleejtimes.com Filed on July 15, 2020 | Last updated on July 15, 2020 at 06.42 am
Emirates Mission to Mars, inspires, Arab youth,  dream big, Egyptian-American space scientist
Farouk El-Baz, the Egyptian-American space scientist who was the leading geologist on Apollo Missions.-Supplied photo

The Hope Probe also takes the UAE a step closer to one of the most ambitious projects of its space programme.

The widely anticipated Emirates Mission to Mars will have immeasurable effects on the youth of the UAE, Egyptian-American space scientist and geologist Dr Farouk El Baz told Khaleej Times in an interview, following a panel discussion at the Emirates Lit Fest. "Just the knowledge that 'we can do it' will give the young people of the country immense satisfaction and courage. It will make all other potentially difficult tasks look miniscule."

El Baz is a renowned name in the space sector, having been a leading geologist with the Apollo programme, including the historic Apollo 11 moon landing and subsequent missions.

With the UAE's space programme turning its gaze to the Red Planet, El Baz said that Mars, in comparison to any other planet within the solar system, is welcoming to humans. It opens doors for great possibilities in terms of research and other studies.

"Although Venus is closer to the Earth, its atmosphere is sulphuric acid. Add to that, its crushing gravitational force. Mars, by comparison, is welcoming to humans," he said.

Martian exploration inspires curiosity among people for various reasons, but El Baz said he is particularly interested in the Red Planet's dry history and its dune motion, which can "help us better understand the deserts of the Earth".

"Mind you, the sand dune field in the north polar region of Mars is much larger than Rub' al Khali of Arabia or the Great Sand Sea in the desert of Egypt and Libya. Thus, I look forward to what the Amal Probe will tell us about wind motions in the upper atmosphere of Mars and their potential effects on localising the dunes in its north polar region."

The Hope Probe also takes the UAE a step closer to one of the most ambitious projects of its space programme - Mars 2117 - that aims to establish a human settlement on the Red Planet in the future.

"I love this whole notion because it goes with the saying - 'think big'," said El Baz. "If one is to motivate people, particularly the youth of a nation, give them a dream bigger than life. It might be beyond our reach now, but who knows what it will look like in a decade or two or 10? The important thing is it will open all kinds of problems for the youth to ponder on. That is priceless. For this reason, I think it is one of the things that we should push for most."

MEET THE SCIENTIST ON SHEIKH ZAYED'S APOLLO PHOTO

Dr Farouk El Baz has long been familiar with the UAE's space dream - as he met with the country's beloved founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a couple of times.

"I was delighted and honoured to have met Sheikh Zayed very early in the game. The first time was in 1974. I was sent by the American government to Gulf region to discuss scientific results of the Apollo missions to the moon. He became very involved in the discussion on how we went about it," El Baz said.

"In the end, I told him I had a collection of pictures that I'd show to the boys in Abu Dhabi High School. He looked at me and said, '.And the girls'. As soon as I came out, I told my helper that after we were done with the boys, we should head to girls' school to show the pictures."

El Baz met Sheikh Zayed for a second time in 1975 with astronaut James Edwin and later in 1976, with the Apollo Soyuz mission. The picture taken during the latter remains iconic in that it became a source of inspiration for the first Emirati astronaut in space Hazzaa AlMansoori.

anamika@khaleejtimes.com 

Anamika Chatterjee


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