210219 Mars
The first images arrive moments after NASA's Perseverance Mars roverspacecraft successfully touched down on Mars, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, U.S. February 18, 2021. Image Credit: Reuters

Millions of kilometres away, over the inky black void of space, Mars is suddenly a busy place. Three separate expeditions are now at the Red Planet in the early stages of their missions to explore and provide answers to one of the great mysteries that perplex us back here on Earth. Are we alone in this universe?

It’s heartening to know that for the past week, the UAE’s Hope probe has begun its work of mapping and detailing every aspect of the climate on Mars and how it has and continues to leak away into space.

Those tense 27 minutes as the UAE probe slowed and travelled behind the planet will remain with us for many decades to come — and so too the pride in knowing that all went according to plan and our nation’s mission could begin in earnest. Within a day, Hope was joined in orbit by China’s Tianwen-1 mission, and now Nasa have brought a lander and Ingenuity, a helicopter and the first to test flight on another planet with its thinner atmosphere. In May, the Chinese will put down a lander on the surface too.

Together, the three missions will greatly broaden and enhance our understanding of Mars and provide key information on what it might take for man to one day venture beyond the Moon and set foot on the red dust of that planet.

Certainly, the physical features of Mars have been shaped by the force of flowing water — just as the substance here has formed our valleys and landscapes. What happened to that is one of the great mysteries that the UAE working with its Martian mission partners will try to answer.

Our quest to explore space is what binds us all together. Among others who hailed the UAE recent Mars odyssey include Mustafa Varank, Turkey’s Minister of Industry and Technology. The gesture was reciprocated by Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology, Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency and EMM Science Lead, who wished Turkey a successful journey of discovery towards the Moon in two years from now.

Since the very dawn of mankind, we have always looked at the stars that fill our skies at night and wondered at their beauty and majesty. We wondered what was there. We marvelled at the Moon and its regularity that gave us a concept of time, keeping track of our changing planet and its seasons. Today, that is the same quest for knowledge that drives us forward to Mars.