20200720 hope probe
Hope Probe is developed by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Image Credit: Reuters

The UAE boasts a long and illustrious history of making the impossible possible.

From being the world’s first country to set up an Artificial Intelligence Strategy and embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, to being consistently named the most generous in the world, to perfecting the science of desalinating precious water resources, to the winning bid for Dubai Expo, to setting up the Barakah Nuclear Plant to building Burj Khalifa and rolling out the driverless Dubai Metro — the annals of history are full of the UAE’s seemingly impossible achievements.

But next Tuesday, it will be a history of different dimensions altogether when the UAE’s Hope Probe enters Martian orbit — not only becoming the first Arab mission to another planet, but also firmly establishing the footprint of young Emirati scientists on the global space map. It is a mission that carries with it not just the goodwill of the UAE, but also the aspirations of millions of people across the entire Arab world in setting up an Arab presence in interplanetary journeys.

First announced in 2014 by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Emirates Mars Mission has truly been a beacon of hope amid global health and economic gloom. It has also been a powerful symbol of the UAE’s resilience — the Hope Probe was launched when the world was hit by the coronavirus crisis last year, and yet the pandemic failed to deter the UAE’s determination to carry on with the ambitious space project.

The primary mission of the probe is to study the climate of the Red Planet and provide scientists around the world with first-of-its kind data. More than 200 Emirati scientists worked on the project, with nearly 34% of them being women. At least 66 components of the probe were manufactured in the UAE. As succinctly summed up by Shaikh Mohammad, the probe “has a 50 per cent success rate in entering Mars’ orbit, but we achieved 90 per cent of our goals in building new knowledge”.

But a far bigger symbolism of the mission — planned to coincide with the UAE’s Golden Jubilee — is that it has inspired an entire country and the whole of Arab world to dream bigger, work harder and achieve higher, empowering Emirati youth with the confidence that the impossible is possible. With its focus on enabling new generations of scientists and innovators, the Mars mission is also a successful role model of how nations can invest on a peaceful and prosperous future.

The UAE has always been a source of hope around the world for generations — helping and healing humanity under the most impossible of circumstances. Next Tuesday, it will take that glorious tradition far beyond the realms of Earth — 493.5 million km to be precise — and say Marhaba Mars.