U.A.E. looks to the stars as Hope Probe begins key phase in ‘audacious’ mission to Mars

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February 1, 2021

Her Excellency Sarah Al Amiri, the U.A.E.’s Minister of State for Advanced Technology, spoke of the U.A.E.’s space ambitions and the key role that STEM has played in helping realize these ambitions during a U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council webinar held on 1 February 2021. A video of the webinar can be found here.

In a conversation moderated by Mat Kaplan, host and producer of The Planetary Society‘s public radio and podcast series, Planetary RadioHer Excellency Sarah Al Amiri spoke about how one of the most challenging phases of the Emirates Mars Mission is quickly arriving, with the Hope probe set to assume Martian orbit on the 9th of February. Despite all the testing that had been done on Earth, the prowess of the U.A.E. space team will be tested when the Hope Probe uses its thrusters for 29 consecutive minutes to enter Mars orbit. H.E. mentioned the great faith she has in her team, and her hope that their years of hard work will be rewarded with the successful arrival of the Hope Probe to the red planet. 

When asked about the key role that STEM had played in the Emirates Mars Mission, H.E. Sarah Al Amiri stated that the U.A.E. wants science and technology to be a vital component of its knowledge-based economy and for the future. Space has been an area that has inspired an entire generation, and the U.A.E. has been building the capacity of its space and STEM-related fields to ensure that they have a solid bedrock and ecosystem for related endeavors, and to sustain space exploration for generations to come. 

H.E. also outlined the key scientific goals of the Emirates Mars Mission, stating that the Hope Probe is designed to orbit Mars and study the dynamics of the Martian atmosphere on a global scale, and on both season and diurnal timescales. This will allow scientists to understand the weather system of the red planet, as well as the ability to look into the peculiarities of Martian weather, such as its dust storms and the atmospheric loss of hydrogen and oxygen.

H.E. added her belief that that “science always has value down the line.” Scientific discovery, and asking ‘why?’, is at the core of human ingenuity. She believes that youth need to continue developing science, and ensuring a balance between what humans need today and what they’ll need to fuel tomorrow. H.E. also mentioned that given the nature of space, the mission becomes an inclusive one. Human cooperation and knowledge transfers allowed the mission to develop and grow regardless of people’s differences, as “space makes you become a species.”

Mr. Kaplan asked how the Emirates Mars Mission is providing inspiration to the young people of the region, to which Her Excellency stated it has been amazing to see young people more aware of the marvels of space and the endless possibilities of science. She believes that empowering the youth is key as they are the custodians of the future, and that the U.A.E.’s support for youth development has been vital to the mission and to the young people who are now considering futures in STEM.

Her Excellency also mentioned how the U.A.E. is looking at sectors that are both key in the present and essential in the future. The U.A.E. has been working to improve not just its space capabilities, but also in other sectors that are needed to ensure resilience, such as sustainable food systems. Areas such as water security, via the desalination of sea water, and the push towards sustainability in the oil and gas sectors factor in the Emirati outlook. The U.A.E. wants to ensure that the economy is diversified, and to ensure a diverse economy they have invested in STEM and other fields.

Mr. Kaplan asked about why the U.A.E. chose Mars, and not the Moon, to which H.E. replied that Mars was selected due to the ambition and audacity that comes with a Mars mission. She spoke of how the U.A.E. has changed since 1971. She noted, “The conventional way of doing things would not have gotten us to where we are today.” The U.A.E. hence chose Mars because from a technical perspective, it allowed them to maximize the capacity development via the massive challenge that reaching Mars poses. As Her Excellency noted, “If you’re doing capability development, maximize the challenges so as to maximize capability development.”

Mr. Danny Sebright, President of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council, concluded the webinar by noting the significance of 2021 to the U.A.E. “This will be the year of Hope, it will be the year of Expo 2020, and it will be the year of the U.A.E.’s Golden Jubilee.” “Moreover, with the new Biden Administration in the U.S., it will be a year of important new collaborations in the area of healthcare and Covid-vaccine distribution to the developing world, as well as important new work on stopping and mitigating the worst effects of climate change.”

For those interested in further content related to the Emirates Mars Mission and other space-related developments, the Business Council is pleased to support The Planetary Society’s PlanetFest ’21 event. You can join Bill Nye and other leading experts starting on 13 February 2021, to celebrate the U.A.E. and other countries’ missions to Mars. Find out more at https://www.planetary.org/planetfest21.

For more information about the Business Council’s exciting slate of upcoming events, please contact the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council’s head of communications, Ms. Mary Zuccarello at mzuccarello@usuaebusiness.org or visit our website at www.usuaebusiness.org.