Mission to Mars: UAE set to become first Arab nation to explore other planets

Mission to Mars: UAE set to become first Arab nation to explore other planets

On July 14, the Emirates Mars probe – “Hope” or “Al Amal” in Arabic – is scheduled to liftoff from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center and begin a seven-month journey to the Red Planet. The probe is expected to enter Mars’ orbit in 2021, coinciding with the UAE’s 50th anniversary. The mission will contribute vital knowledge to the global space community and prove that the UAE, a young nation with a newly formed space exploration program, can achieve this breakthrough by prioritizing an ambitious advanced sciences agenda.

Days before this historic liftoff, two barrier-breaking leaders, UAE Minister of Advanced Technology and Deputy Project Manager of the Emirates Mars Mission Sarah Al Amiri and Dr. Ellen Stofan, Director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and former Chief Scientist of NASA, offered these views on A Reason for “Hope,” the third episode of Podbridge, a new podcast series launched by the UAE Embassy and hosted by UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba.

First announced in 2014, the Emirates Mars Mission represents the culmination of an innovative knowledge transfer and development program between the UAE and international partners. Working closely with US educational institutions such as University of Colorado, University of California-Berkeley and Arizona State University, Emirati scientists completed the Arab world’s first interplanetary space probe while laying the foundations for a sustainable and dynamic space exploration industry in the UAE.

“In six short years, the Emirates Mars Mission program has created a brand-new industry that is transforming the UAE’s science community,” said UAE Minister of Advanced Technology Sarah Al Amiri. “With the support of countless international experts, we have taken an inspiration and turned that into reality by developing homegrown talent and expertise, while investing in state-of-the-art universities and laboratories. The Hope probe now sits atop a rocket ready for launch, fulfilling the UAE’s journey to Mars promise.”

“It is incredibly exciting that space exploration is not limited to simply a handful of countries with many years of experience in this field,” said Dr. Ellen Stofan, Director of the National Air and Space Museum. “We need the collaboration of the worldwide scientific community and that requires nurturing a global pool of talent. Space does not belong to one country, but to all of us. As the former Chief Scientist at NASA, I witnessed firsthand the remarkable growth of the UAE program and the Emirates Mars Mission is a milestone event that supporters of space travel worldwide should applaud.”

During the podcast, Minister Al Amiri and Dr. Stofan spoke about their careers as female trailblazers in a male dominated profession and offered advice to young people who are passionate about science and space.

“To every young girl, never allow anybody to say you cannot achieve greatness. Sit at the table where decisions are made and don’t allow anyone to say you do not belong. For young Emirati women, look to Sarah Al Amiri as a role model and inspiration,” said Dr. Stofan. Added Minister Al Amiri, “For all the young women pursuing a career in science and technology, channel your inner power, seize the opportunities before you, and with that knowledge, you will create change that will transform the world.”

In 2019, Hazza Al Mansouri, the UAE’s first astronaut, set out on a historic mission to the International Space Station. Aboard the ISS, he conducted various experiments on behalf of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, hosted a traditional Emirati dinner for his crewmates, and gave a broadcasted tour of the station for viewers back home.

In this episode of Podbridge, UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba also interviewed Hazza Al Mansouri, who described the immense sense of pride and accomplishment generated by the UAE National Space Program.

“Nearly 60 years ago, President John Kennedy delivered his famous moon shot speech and captured the imagination of the world,” Ambassador Al Otaiba said. “Today in the UAE, that same energy and wonderment exists as the Hope probe is set to launch. The Emirates Mars Mission is inspiring a new generation of Arab youth to explore careers in science and technology, and opening up new frontiers of possibility for our region.”

The UAE Embassy in Washington, DC will host a virtual watch party for the historic scheduled launch of the Emirates Mars Mission. Alongside a livestream of the launch pad, experts from the US and UAE space sectors will discuss the Mission’s goals and the broader significance of the Arab world’s first interplanetary spacecraft. Watch the event live at 3:30 pm EDT on July 14 via the UAE Embassy’s YouTube page.

Sarah Al Amiri was named as chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency and Minister for Advanced Technology, effective August 2020. Sarah Al Amiri was appointed as Minister of State for Advanced Sciences in October 2017. Her responsibilities include enhancing the contributions of advanced sciences to the development of UAE and its economy. Sarah is also Deputy Project Manager and Science Lead on the Emirates Mars Mission, where she leads the team developing and fulfilling the Mission’s scientific objectives, goals, instrumentation and analysis programs.

Dr. Ellen Stofan is the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Stofan started in April 2018 and is the first woman to hold this position. Stofan comes to the position with more than 25 years’ experience in space-related organizations and a deep research background in planetary geology. She was chief scientist at NASA (2013-16), serving as the principal advisor to former Administration Charles Bolden on NASA’s strategic planning and programs.

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