Dubai: Immediately after Hope Probe was successfully captured by Mars orbit on February 9, the UAE leaders went inside the command centre at Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) to personally and warmly congratulate the young cadre of Emirati engineers, scientists, data analysts and programmers.
It was big moment of triumph and jubilation for the team — who are all under 35 years old — to make history and put a young nation like the UAE as the first Arab country and only the fifth in the world to reach the Red Planet. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, called them the wealth of the nation who will lead the country towards the top.
They are young, ambitious and their hearts and minds are in the right place. Gulf News recently spoke with some of them as they shared their thoughts, feelings and aspirations, coupled with cautious confidence and excitement.
Responsible for spacecraft integration
Ali Juma Al Suwaidi, FlatSat engineer, is responsible for spacecraft integration and testing, as well as anomaly tracking. He leads the assembly, integration and testing of the FlatSat bench test models for Hope Probe. Two FlatSats were developed for the Emirates Mars Mission — one at MBRSC in Dubai and the other at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, a research organisation at University of Colorado, Boulder.
A FlatSat was a large motherboard where modules were installed, similar to a real satellite. It was used to test the instruments, telemetry database and properties of Hope Probe. He told Gulf News: “Throughout the seven-month cruise in deep space, we did simulations to test the capabilities of Hope Probe before its Mars approach. We made sure of the right timing and speed to avoid crashing into Mars or getting lost in space.”
Al Suwaidi joined MBRSC in January 2017 in the Systems Engineering Unit. He graduated from Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research in Abu Dhabi with a Bachelor’s in Electronic and Electrical Engineering, before gaining a Master’s in Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Management from University of Colorado, Boulder.
Mission design lead
Omar Abdelrahman Hussain is the Lead mission design and Navigation engineer. He is a computer engineer who graduated from Khalifa University in Sharjah and has been working with MBRSC since the launch of KhalifaSat. He led Hope Probe’s Monte Carlo Simulation, a highly precise computer-based quantitative risk analyses.
Speaking with Gulf News a couple of days before the historic Mars orbit insertion (MOI), he said: “Several missions in the past have failed and we took lessons from them to innovate and mitigate any failures of our mission. The simulations for Hope Probe journey from Earth to Mars were done at least a million times and we are still iterating the same design we had five years ago. It has been a long process and very tedious process but the design is very robust. We did rehearsals to get it right. We are confident and we just need to trust our design.”
Expert on data analysis
Maryam Yousuf is Hope Probe’s Science data analyst. One of her tasks is to study the diurnal (daily) data and investigate the atmosphere of Mars, which has never been done before. Hope Probe will collect and share 1,000GB (1 terabyte) of Mars data for free with the international science community.
Yousuf, who finished Biomedical engineering from Khalfa University in Abu Dhabi, said: “Studying Mars’ atmosphere will help us understand the atmosphere of other planets and provide a more comprehensive understanding of Earth’s weather. Having day to night coverage of Mars’ atmosphere will give us an advantage of knowing what happened to Mars’ ancient wet environment which has now become dry. We will also observe Mars weather phenomena, including its massive dust storms and compare these with dust storms here on Earth.”
She added the data that will be collected by Hope Probe will provide scientists a deeper understanding of climate dynamics and also shed light on how energy and particles, like oxygen and hydrogen, have moved through the atmosphere and escaped Mars. This can be applied to understand the future of Earth.
Head of Science Data Centre
Omran Ahmed Al Hammadi is the Science Data Centre Lead. He joined MBRSC in 2011 as a software engineer. He worked on the development of satellite operation software for DubaiSat-2 mission. After that, he moved to application development and analysis centre at MBRSC where he was part of the team to develop satellite imagery analysis platform for DubaiSat-2 for features extraction.
In 2015, Al Hammadi joined the Emirates Mars Mission and since then, he has been the science data centre lead. The science data centre team he is leading is responsible for mission data processing, management and dissemination. He was previously part of several committees at MBRSC including suggestion committee and innovation committee. He is currently part of Data classification Committee at MBRSC.
Al Hammadi graduated from Khalifa University with a Bachelor’s in Computer Engineering in 2011.
Head of Science
Hessa Al Matroushi is the Deputy Project Manager — Science. She joined MBRSC in 2013 as an Associate Image Processing Engineer, before working on applications development where she developed tools and algorithms for imaging analysis for both DubaiSat-1 and DubaiSat-2. She headed the MBRSC innovation committee, while continuing to lead on imaging analysis reports before joining the EMM science team in 2015 to work on the Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EMUS) science instrument. She acted as deputy project manager on the Nayif-1 CubeSat project before moving to become Lead for the Emirates Mars Mission Science Data and Analysis team.
Hessa’s work with EMUS has resulted in a number of papers, particularly in the analysis of models to simulate Mars thermospheric oxygen emissions. She graduated from the American University of Sharjah with a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering in 2012 and obtained her Master’s in Engineering System Management from AUS in 2015.
She told Gulf News: “Hope Probe will circle the Mars equator, allowing it to get a complete picture of the planet every nine days — including every spot on the surface at every time of day. The spacecraft carries three main scientific instruments that will allow it to observe Mars’ atmosphere in wavelengths from infrared to ultraviolet. This will provide a complete view of Mars atmosphere and this will allow scientists to study how the different layers of the atmosphere interact with one another and how those interactions change depending on the time of day, season and year. This will help us answer the long-standing question of how hydrogen and oxygen escape from the Martian atmosphere and float away into space.”
Hope deputy project manager — Spacecraft
Suhail Butti Al Dhafri is the Deputy Project Manager — Hope spacecraft. He joined MBRSC soon after its foundation as the Emirates Institute for Advanced Sciences in 2006 and worked a research engineer in the Space System Development Department. He was in charge of the development of Payload Electronics of DubaiSat-1.
In 2008 he was appointed as Payload Electronics Section Head working on the development of the imaging system and associated subsystems of DubaiSat-2. In 2013, he became Space System Section Head, managing four engineering units: system engineering; mechanical manufacture; assembly and integration and electronics manufacture. These teams worked on the development of KhalifaSat. In 2014, he became EMM Deputy Project Manager and Spacecraft Lead, responsible for the spacecraft technical design and development as well as engineering teams.
Al Dhafri obtained his Bachelor’s in Computer Engineering from the American University of Sharjah in 2006 and his master’s in aerospace engineering (Space Systems) from the University of Daejeon in South Korea in 2013.
Mission Operations lead
Zakareyya Hussain Al Shamsi is the Deputy Project Manager for Mission Operations. He is responsible for spacecraft operation after Hope Probe was launched last year. He also heads the MBRSC Space Avionics Section.
Al Shamsi joined MBRSC in 2009, working on the LEOP (Launch and Early Operations) team for DubaiSat-1 before working on the design and implementation of software systems on DubaiSat-2. He led the design and implementation of both mission control and flight software of KhalifaSat and took responsibility for spacecraft operations. He joined MBRSC after graduating from Khalifa University-Sharjah with a Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Engineering and went on to gain a master’s in aerospace engineering from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in 2013.
He told Gulf News: “The ground station at MBRSC — composed of young Emirati engineers, programmers and analysts all under 35 years are always ready and prepared. We have worked very hard to achieve the important milestone in UAE’s space programme history.”