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'Mars mission to open a new chapter in UAE's space programme' Filed on July 11, 2020 | Last updated on July 11, 2020 at 06.25 am


Assistant director-general at MBRSC said the mission has far-reaching impact on the space sector in the UAE.

After sending its first astronaut to space last year, the UAE is set to become the first Arab country to attempt a mission to Mars. The Hope Probe aims to closely study the Red Planet's atmosphere and weather patterns, with final checks being conducted presently ahead of the launch on July 15. Speaking to Khaleej Times, ahead of a talk at the Emirates Lit Fest panel, Salem AlMarri, assistant director general for science and technology sector at Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, maintained that the Emirates Mission to Mars will open up a new chapter in the UAE's relatively young space programme. "Beyond its scientific objective of providing the first complete picture of the Martian atmosphere, the mission has far-reaching impact for the space sector in the UAEUnder the wise vision of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the UAE is investing in developing its capabilities in the space sector across communication, earth observation and now, deep space exploration, a critical dimension to our long-term vision. The Hope Probe is accelerating the rapid development of the UAE's space, education, science and technologies sector." AlMarri also said the UAE's space programme has been witnessing remarkable growth and is currently the largest across the region. "We have also made significant advances in our space regulatory and investment environment. Globally, the UAE's space sector stands as young, ambitious and formidable."

Mars remains an important pursuit for the UAE's space programme, with a 2117 project being planned with an aim to have human settlement on the planet. "The Emirates Mars Mission is part of the UAE's long-term strategy of exploring Mars. The planet's proximity to Earth makes it ideal for humans to colonise it one day and make human cities on its surface. Moreover, Earth and Mars, while very different, share a lot of similarities such as the presence of polar ice caps, seasonal variability, rotation, the amount of sunlight, and topography, amongst others. While colonising Mars may seem like a distant dream, it is essential to study every aspect of the planet for the future of humanity." He also added that while the Red Planet offers a harsh environment for life to thrive and poses multiple challenges for human settlement, the current initiative aims to address these challenges in the coming years through research and development, education, capabilities building and global collaboration.

Recently, a third of the total applications received for the next edition of the astronauts programme came from Emirati women. Mr Almarri said that the UAE's space industry is benefitting from their increased participation in different projects, including Hope Probe. "Women play a critical role in every sector in the UAE, including the space industry. For instance, the Emirates Mars Mission team, is 34 per cent female, with up to 90 per cent female representation in the science team. Emirati women have played a vital role in the country's progress, and it is no surprise that so many women have come forward to represent the country in outer space. From all the women who have applied, we have received some outstanding candidates, and we'd like to see one of them being selected as the first Emirati female astronaut. Our goal, as always, is to find the most suitable candidate to join the UAE astronaut corps."

Anamika Chatterjee

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