MISSION TO MARS CAN MOTIVATE ARAB WORLD
▶ Project manager Omran Sharaf says the UAE will be ready for the landmark launch in July next year
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.”
Mars mission project manager Omran Sharaf said plans to send a probe to the red planet went back to 1971