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UAE Mars mission on track for 2020 launch

Hope spacecraft to inspire Arab region to generate knowledge, mission specialist says

  • Omran Sharaf, Emirates Mars Mission Project manager at Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre.Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
  • (from left) Sara Al Maeeni, expert in space communication and research at MBRSC, Kathy Swan, president, SouthwImage Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
  • A student going through the information about different planets.Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
  • Students going through the information about different planets.Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
Gulf News

Dubai: The Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) is on track to launch the Hope spacecraft in July 2020 on its seven-month journey to the Red Planet, the mission’s project manager said on Wednesday at the Project Space Forum in Dubai.

Omran Sharaf said: “The mission has been on track so far. We’ve completed the PDR — Preliminary Design Review — and hopefully we’ll hold the CDR [Critical Design Review] soon.”

His comments came during his presentation on ‘How Could the UAE Get to Mars?’ on the second and final day of the forum, held at Dubai World Trade Centre for the first time.

Project Space is held under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai. Shaikh Hamdan is the chairman of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), organiser of Project Space.

During Wednesday’s talk on EMM, Sharaf added that “the system design has been completed … and we’re starting to work on the engineering models of the mission. So this is the current phase of the mission”.

Hope should enter into the Martian orbit by early 2021 — the year of the UAE’s 50th independence anniversary — to study the planet’s atmosphere in unprecedented detail. It will also mark the first time for an Arab or Muslim country to send a spacecraft to Mars.

Sharaf said the aims of the mission were not restricted to scientific discovery alone. “His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum [Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai] mentioned on several occasions that this mission is not about reaching Mars. It’s beyond that … It’s about taking the whole [Arab] region and making them [Arabs] active in generating knowledge.”

Changing perspectives

His presentation was followed by a panel discussion on ‘Women in Space’, featuring experts from the UAE and the US.

Panellist Bakhita Al Muhairi, a young Emirati female pilot with Emirates airline, said some people are still adhering to stereotypes regarding aspiring women pilots, but “that perspective is changing”.

Dr Sara Al Maeeni, an MBRSC expert in space communications and researcher on the EMM, said women represent 40 per cent of the MBRSC workforce. “Nothing is impossible … I have a feeling we will in the future have a UAE lady astronaut,” she added.

Meanwhile, Abby Harrison, popularly known as Astronaut Abby, said strong women role models have inspired women who are “facing an uphill battle in space travel” — because of the stereotype that it is too dangerous or difficult for women — that a strong will can overcome odds.

On Wednesday, Mona Al Qemzi, assistant director-general of the corporate support sector at MBRSC, announced in a statement that “Project Space will be held on an annual basis in order to enhance the young generations’ knowledge in the field of space science and technology”.

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