“I cannot describe it, but I realize that the image printed on the page is bigger than anything I have ever seen and dwarfs the planet I live on.” With these words I described His Excellency Sarah Al-Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Technology and leader of the scientific team for the Emirates Mars Exploration Project (Probe of Hope) In her interview with the New York Times.
His Excellency Al-Amiri grew up in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and when I entered the university there were little opportunities in the Middle East to pursue studies and specialization in the field of cosmology, so I chose computer science as an alternative. However, the United Arab Emirates aims today to inspire young people and urge them to enter the fields of science and technology, and the Emiri has refined the process of the process of aspiring to the stars. .
On the seventeenth of July, the Emirates’s journey to the Red Planet begins in a step that is the most daring for a country looking to build a future beyond the oil economy, and sees space programs as one of the ways to achieve the goal.
Preparations for the launch of the “Hope Probe” went smoothly and the Emirates prepared for its first flights to Mars on a mission to explore its atmosphere, where the giant solar panels of the probe will extend into space after the launch. The country has used the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries platform to take off from the Tanegashima space base.
The probe, the size of the “Mini Cooper”, will reach its orbit around Mars in February next year. The spacecraft, which cost nearly $ 200 million, carries three instruments – an infrared spectrometer and another with ultraviolet radiation and a camera. From its orbit, which ranges from 12,400 miles to 27,000 miles above the surface of Mars, planets will be given the first cosmic view of the Martian climate at all times of the day. It will also reveal, over the course of a two-year mission, how dust storms accelerated and other climatic phenomena near the surface of the planet, or slowed the planet’s loss of air in space.
However, this is not the main reason why the UAE government launched the path of hope. Imran Sharaf, director of the Emirates Mars Exploration Project, commented at a recent press conference: “Some people may wonder why we chose space, but it is not just about getting to Mars.” The first goal confirms honor, which is to inspire school students and move the scientific and technological industries that will enable the UAE, in turn, to deal with basic issues such as food, water, energy and the post-oil economy. “It comes to starting moving the wheel, creating that precarious change, and changing the thinking system.”
With regard to the Mars mission, the UAE has adopted an approach similar to building satellites previously, working with the Laboratory of Space and Atmospheric Physics at Colorado Boulder University, where the probe was built before being sent to Dubai for verification. Emirati engineers worked with their Boulder counterparts and learned a lot during the spacecraft design and assembly process. And they achieved, according to what Sharaf said, “One of the requirements of the government, which was established from the beginning and stipulated the necessity of building the vehicle, not buying it.”
In 2009, Sarah Al-Amiri joined what became known as the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center and worked as an engineer for satellite programs. In 2014, she joined her current assignments in the Mars Exploration Project after the project was announced. He also held the position of Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and a member of the Consultative Council of Scientists.
The UAE went into a race against time, preparing for the “Probe of Hope” project, and by a decision by Emirati officials to adopt a faster path that necessitated converting some engineers at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center to scientists through the provision of new training by researchers from the United States of America. Al-Amiri said in this regard: “I was there to develop scientific skills within the institution and I can transfer knowledge in unconventional ways.”
A series of challenges were added to the Corona virus crisis, as both Sharaf and Al-Amiri realized at the end of February, shortly before Russia and the European Space Agency postponed launching the “Rosalind Franklin” mission due to part of them, due to the logistical obstacles created by the pandemic, that the outbreak of the virus may disturb schedules. Strictly set in the event of airport closures. “Accordingly, we started working on a plan to transfer the team to Japan as quickly as possible.” Emiri says. And there have been some changes with regard to the planned tests in Dubai in order to accelerate the transportation of the vehicle to Japan three weeks before the scheduled date. The ban measures meant that the two countries could not travel, so he picked up a small team to Japan in early April, and another joined him after two weeks from the Emirates with the probe, and everyone underwent a period of stone.
The mission is ready, both Sharaf and Al-Amiry stresses, adding that the country’s space program will go ahead in isolation from the results. Sharaf notes that “the Emiratis are well aware of the risks involved in the mission, just as the team does, and let’s be honest that 50 percent of the missions to Mars have been unsuccessful.”
Noting that the mission means to the people of the Emirates more than just a flight to space, he says: “It is more closely related to the impact. Reaching Mars is just one of a number of goals, but lack of access does not mean failure.”
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