▶ Project man­ager Om­ran Sharaf says the UAE will be ready for the land­mark launch in July next year

The National - News - - NEWS EMIRATES - JOHN DENNEHY

The UAE’s Mis­sion to Mars next year has been de­scribed as hav­ing the po­ten­tial to in­spire and en­er­gise young peo­ple across the Arab world.

Om­ran Sharaf, project man­ager of the Mis­sion to Mars, said the launch would send a pow­er­ful mes­sage that dreams of space ex­plo­ration could be achieved.

On Wed­nes­day, he de­scribed how the Hope craft would blast off in July next year and reach the sur­face of Mars in 2021.

He said he be­lieved the mis­sion had the po­ten­tial to mo­ti­vate Arab youths be­yond the UAE’s bor­ders and demon­strate that the re­gion was forg­ing a more pros­per­ous fu­ture.

“It is go­ing well. We are ready, we have to be,” Mr Sharaf said at the Emi­rates Cen­tre for Strate­gic Stud­ies and Re­search think tank in Abu Dhabi.

“The mes­sage from the UAE is if we can reach Mars in less than 50 years, other Arab coun­tries with a great legacy can do even greater things.”

Hope, or Amal in Ara­bic, blasts off for the Red Planet from Ja­pan next sum­mer.

It is the first mis­sion to Mars by any Arab or Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­try and co­in­cides with the 50th an­niver­sary of the found­ing of the UAE in 2021.

More than 100 Emi­rati en­gi­neers have been work­ing on the project in part­ner­ship with sev­eral uni­ver­si­ties in the US.

The craft is in its fi­nal stages of test­ing and will be launched in July next year as Earth and Mars will be at their clos­est dis­tance for two years. The probe will take from seven to nine months to reach the planet.

Mr Sharaf also re­flected on the launch of the UAE-built Khal­i­faSat satel­lite last year and how the UAE sent its first as­tro­naut, Hazza Al Man­souri, into space last month.

He said some peo­ple were scep­ti­cal the UAE could build its own satel­lite, but that the mis­sion was con­tin­u­ing to prove an enor­mous suc­cess.

“Some peo­ple said noth­ing was man­u­fac­tured 100 per cent here,” said Mr Sharaf, an Emi­rati en­gi­neer who trained in the US and South Korea.

Since its launch, Khal­i­faSat has cap­tured at least 7,000 images, in­clud­ing strik­ing shots of Palm Jumeirah, Makkah and the Baikonur Cos­mod­rome in Kaza­khstan, from which Maj Al Man­souri trav­elled to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion.

Mr Sharaf said that space ex­plo­ration was tough and that tak­ing risks was im­por­tant.

He also out­lined how plans for the Hope probe stretched back to the UAE’s foun­da­tion.

“How will you de­velop if you don’t take risks? Fail­ure is an op­tion, fail­ure to progress is not an op­tion,” he said.

“The idea for Hope started in 1971 when the UAE started build­ing sta­tions to pro­vide com­mu­ni­ca­tions and TV broad­cast ser­vices. But we used for­eign satel­lites pro­vided by pri­vate com­pa­nies then.

The UAE’s mes­sage is if we can reach Mars in less than 50 years, other Arab coun­tries can do even greater things OM­RAN SHARAF Project man­ager of the Mars mis­sion

“By the 1990s, the UAE de­cided to op­er­ate its own satel­lites through the [UAE-based satel­lite op­er­a­tor] com­pany known as Thu­raya.

“The UAE gained a great deal of ex­pe­ri­ence by mak­ing that de­ci­sion.”

Last year, the for­mer head of Nasa, Charles Bolden, said the UAE’s Mars mis­sion had the po­ten­tial to be of huge ben­e­fit to hu­man­ity.

“How many na­tions have been suc­cess­ful in reach­ing Mars? Not many,” Mr Bolden told The Na­tional.

“It is a huge deal for us to have the Emi­rates Mars Mis­sion reach Mars.”

Vic­tor Besa / The Na­tional

Mars mis­sion project man­ager Om­ran Sharaf said plans to send a probe to the red planet went back to 1971

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