UAE is reach­ing for the stars with our Mars probe to give Hope to all

‘Some 50pc of all Mars mis­sions ever launched have failed. A sin­gle vi­brat­ing part can lead to disas­ter’

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Technology Intelligen­ce - MAN­SOOR ABULHOUL Man­soor Abulhoul is the UAE’s am­bas­sador to the UK

For decades, space ex­plo­ration has been dom­i­nated by a hand­ful of ma­jor pow­ers. Only four coun­tries have ever sent space­craft to Mars.

But things are set to change to­mor­row evening, when a rocket car­ry­ing a so­phis­ti­cated and highly au­ton­o­mous probe will blast off, start­ing a nine-month jour­ney to the red planet.

The de­vice will study the en­tirety of the Mar­tian up­per and lower at­mos­phere for the first time.

It will give us an­swers to key sci­en­tific ques­tions about weather pat­terns, at­mo­spheric dy­nam­ics and the mys­tery of why so much of the once thick Mar­tian at­mos­phere has blown off into space.

This is not the work of the Euro­pean Space Agency. Or Nasa. Or the China Na­tional Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The Hope Mars Probe has been con­ceived, de­signed and built by a team from the United Arab Emi­rates.

The peo­ple be­hind the Arab world’s first in­ter­plan­e­tary mis­sion are a re­mark­able group of Emi­rati sci­en­tists and en­gi­neers.

Work­ing with sci­en­tific part­ners around the world, this group of young peo­ple (the ma­jor­ity un­der the age of 35) have de­liv­ered Hope on bud­get, and in just six years. That is al­most half the time typ­i­cal of in­ter­plan­e­tary mis­sions.

The tech­ni­cal challenges of reach­ing Mars are vastly harder than those re­quired to put a satel­lite into Earth’s or­bit. Some 50pc of all Mars mis­sions ever launched have failed. A sin­gle vi­brat­ing part can lead to disas­ter.

In re­cent months the team’s work has been made even harder by Covid-19 so­cial dis­tanc­ing mea­sures in both the UAE and Ja­pan, where Hope will launch from. None­the­less, the de­vice has been read­ied for a tight launch win­dow dic­tated by the or­bits of the plan­ets.

The Emi­rates Mars Mis­sion is just the start. The UAE is in the process of build­ing up a hi-tech do­mes­tic in­dus­try that will send com­mer­cial and sci­en­tific mis­sions into space. By 2117 we aim to have es­tab­lished a hu­man set­tle­ment on Mars.

That might sound fan­ci­ful for a coun­try of 10 mil­lion peo­ple. But reach­ing for the stars is cru­cial to the UAE’s na­tional de­vel­op­ment strat­egy. With­out it, we can­not hope to build a flour­ish­ing, post-oil knowl­edge econ­omy that of­fers op­por­tu­ni­ties to all our young peo­ple.

We are al­ready as well known for fi­nance, tourism and trade as we are for oil production. But we want to be a player in the in­dus­tries of the fu­ture as well, in­clud­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing.

Our space pro­gramme is giv­ing us the sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy base we need.

It has al­ready changed per­cep­tions of ca­reers in sci­ence. Uni­ver­sity physics de­part­ments have dou­bled in size to cater for grow­ing de­mand from stu­dents. En­tire new de­gree cour­ses have been cre­ated. We have seen record num­bers of stu­dents move to sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics de­grees.

But this is big­ger than just the UAE. Sci­en­tists across the world will ben­e­fit from Hope’s data, which will be re­leased on an open-access ba­sis to the global re­search com­mu­nity.

And it will help spark a re­vival of sci­ence across the Mid­dle East. Once a cen­tre of learn­ing, the Arab world has been fall­ing be­hind for cen­turies. It has be­come a by­word for ex­trem­ism and con­flict, rather than tol­er­ance and sci­en­tific progress.

The re­gion’s 100m young Arabs de­serve bet­ter.

As the name sug­gests, this Mars satel­lite is in­tended to give them Hope.

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