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Yes, the UAE can inspire space travel

I left the screen, went to the hall outside and did what I was supposed to do. Next to me were Indians waiting for their movies to start.



By Ibrahim Shukralla

Published: Mon 9 Sep 2019, 9:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 9 Sep 2019, 11:28 PM

"Ibrahim, I've just emailed you the interview."
I had just arrived at the cinema, to watch Akshay Kumar's new Bollywood movie, Mission Mangal.
That's when I received the call from a colleague telling me he had just sent the exclusive interview he conducted for our news organisation with India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. And I needed to edit it.
I left the screen, went to the hall outside and did what I was supposed to do. Next to me were Indians waiting for their movies to start. There was a kiosk selling Indian bites. It was the perfect atmosphere to edit an interview with India's prime minister.
The interview went live on our news organisation's website at 9.54pm, but I had already missed half of the movie. "Could you please brief me on what happened in the first half?" I asked my wife.
At the end of the movie, Modi's speech talking about India's historic Mars Orbiter Mission, or Mangalyaan, was played. Goosebumps, pride and inspiration - I was overwhelmed. Knowing that I am an Emirati, I am sure some of my Indian friends would ask: "How come?"
It was a proud journalistic moment for me to run an exclusive interview, a few minutes ago, with the man I had just seen on the screen, the leader of the biggest democracy in the world. He had landed in my country for a state visit - on August 23 - for the third time in the last four years.
Why was I inspired, and why the goosebumps??
My country, one year from now, will be launching its own Mars mission, and seeing the milestone accomplishment of our Indian friends launching their Mars mission and that too the least expensive to date was a proud moment as a fellow Asian.
India is the first Asian country to reach Mars after the mission was launched in 2013, and since 2014, the probe has been orbiting Mars. Now, the UAE is aiming at becoming the first Arab and West Asian country to reach Mars. Good things happen to those who dare to dream, I guess.
Dream is just one of the values that we Emiratis share with Indians. And our bond is not only limited to business and diplomatic relations - it is profound, it is rooted in our culture and traditions.
Indians are us - they are our neighbours, friends, coworkers, teachers, doctors. Many Emirati words have their origin in Hindi. We love Bollywood, we enjoy eating biryani and masala; we indulge in karak chai; we fancy the scent of Indian oud, and here is the most important part - we embrace it all.
Just like India's huge aerospace success in 2013-2014, I am sure the 3.3 million Indians residing in the UAE will be dreaming our 2020 dream, which they themselves lived years ago, as we embark on reaching the impossible.
India raised the bar for people in this part of the world to dream, as its space agency became at that time the fourth space agency in the world to have reached Mars. It is now our turn to enter this sector, to explore it, make mistakes, learn, and try to achieve while many have been afraid to even try.
The UAE's Hope Mars Mission is not only about studying the climate on Mars and answering scientific questions, it is a project to challenge the world with our abilities and competency, telling them, just like the Indians: "Yes, we can."
The countdown has officially begun. On September 25, Emirati astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri's spaceflight to the International Space Station will begin. If it succeeds, he will be the first Arab aboard the ISS, giving a boost to what is coming next year.  Awareness campaigns about the Hope Mars Mission should start; we need to feel the greatness of the event. Everybody must know about it - kids, adults, and the elderly. The world must also be introduced to it.
To the aerospace industry, reaching Mars is like winning the FIFA World Cup in football. As you reach the finals, the streets will be empty, while bars, restaurants, coffee shops and homes will be packed, and the most important topic will be the game.
This is how it should be with the UAE Mars mission; this is how enormous the event itself is.
Ibrahim Shukralla is an Emirati journalist
 @shukralla


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