Countdown begins on UAE Mars mission aiming to bring Hope to the Arab world

Countdown begins on UAE Mars mission aiming to bring Hope to the Arab world
An artist’s depiction of UAE’s Hope Mars Mission orbiting Mars. (Courtesy of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center)
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Updated 13 July 2020

Countdown begins on UAE Mars mission aiming to bring Hope to the Arab world

Countdown begins on UAE Mars mission aiming to bring Hope to the Arab world
  • The Hope Probe will start its journey July 14, 2020
  • Data of the mission will be regularly available to the public without any embargo

LONDON: In just 40 days, the UAE will become the first Arab country to send a mission to Mars, part of a wider regional effort to build knowledge and create opportunities, particularly for young people.
“This mission is not just about the UAE it’s about the region, it’s about the Arab issue,” Omran Sharaf, the mission’s project manager at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC), said.
“The region is going through tough times and we do need good news and we need the youth in the region to really start looking inwards, building their own nations and putting differences aside to co-exist with people with different faiths and backgrounds and work together.”
The Hope Mars Mission will start its journey on July 14 and is expected to reach the planet by February, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the UAE. 
The project has been planned, managed and implemented by an Emirati team overseen and funded by the UAE Space Agency. 
The MBRSC has developed the probe in cooperation with international partners, including the Universities of Colorado, Berkeley and Arizona.




The UAE's mission to Mars, the Hope Probe. (Courtesy of UAE Space Agency)

Speaking at a webinar on the mission on Monday, Sarah Al-Amiri, the UAE’s Minister of State for Advanced Sciences, outlined why the project was so important to the Emirates.
“Today the UAE is an economy based on services, logistics, and oil and gas, and within the region it is considered a diversified economy, but if we project that down the line, the importance of knowledge-intensive sectors becomes more and more prominent for the country, as well as creating new knowledge-intensive organizations,” she said.

Developing talent, creating opportunities for engineers, scientists, and researchers working in natural sciences are the next important endeavours for the country, the minister added.
“Mars provided us with the necessary challenge to rigorously develop talent in engineering, it gave us an appetite for risk and being able to circumvent the risk and push forward with the mission for development. It allows us to start integrating and creating new opportunities for scientists within the UAE and those that are studying the natural sciences,” Al-Amiri said.
Since the project was launched in 2014, the team has designed, developed and assembled the spacecraft, and repeatedly tested it through the harsh conditions it is expected to encounter.




The Hope probe will study the Martian atmosphere to understand how it developed into its current state. (Courtesy of UAE Space Agency)

As the UAE does not have a launch pad, the spacecraft was shipped to Japan in April. It was moved three weeks ahead of schedule, due to the increasing travel restrictions being imposed to combat the spread of COVID-19.
“Nothing about this mission has been easy, since day one the timeframe has been challenging, the budget itself has been a bit challenging, there were very strict requirements when we came to the budget and it was limited and then the COVID-19 situation came into place on top of all the other challenges,” Sharaf said.
He added that the details of the budget would be announced at a later stage.
“When it comes to these projects, the public understands the importance for the UAE,” Sharaf said. “It’s about addressing our national challenges and building capabilities. We live in a region with geographical challenges, when it comes to water, food and clean energy and everybody is quite excited about this mission because they understand the value it brings.”

Al-Amiri said the data from the mission would be publicly available from two months after the spacecraft starts to orbit Mars between August and September next year.
Any scientist would be able to use the information and analyze the figures, she said.
“We are looking at and studying a planet that has indications that it was very similar to our own planet and that has undergone some form of change and has gone into a point where it can’t have one of the major building blocks of life, as we humans know it and as we have defined it. 
“Understanding the reasons for the loss of hydrogen and oxygen, the building blocks of water from the atmosphere of Mars and understanding what role does mars itself play.”




The Hope probe will start its journey on July 14, 2020, and is scheduled to arrive to Mars by Feb. 2021, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the union of the UAE.

The team would also be studying the weather on Mars throughout an entire year.
“We are the very first weather satellites of Mars,” Al-Amiri said. “Prior to this we have been studying the weather on that planet and understanding better the climate of Mars by sporadically sampling various areas around the planet but not understanding the changes that happened throughout an entire day.”
However, Sharaf said “the UAE has always had plans for the future and we are definitely not going to stop with Mars. 
The UAE space program is more of a mean or a tool to build our knowledge economy, so reaching Mars is not the objective and whatever the next phase is will be focused more on transferring that knowledge to the different sectors that we have in the UAE.”
Over the last 60 years, only six countries have sent missions to the Red Planet.
“Space travel has by and large been in the group of a small select number of superpowers, so this is a great opportunity for the UAE to go beyond that and to go into something different,” Alistair Burt, Chairman of the Emirates Society, which hosted the webinar from London, said.
The Emirates has already launched two satellites and sent an astronaut to the International Space Station and it has vowed to build a human settlement on Mars by 2117.




The UAE Astronaut Programme sent the first Emirati and Arab astronaut to join astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) in Spetember 2019. (Courtesy of MBRSC)

“Fifty percent of the missions that go to Mars have failed and this is one of the reasons the UAE chose Mars as a target because of the challenges around it and it’s a message that the challenges that we are facing in the region are not easier,” Sharaf said. “The best way to increase the likelihood of succeeding is by testing, testing and again testing, debugging and then fixing, and that’s why the philosophy of the mission is to continue testing till the day that we are going to launch and we won’t stop this.”
Sir Ian Blatchford, director of the UK’s Science Museum Group, described the UAE’s project as fascinating.
“What they are trying to achieve is remarkable for a country that is developing this infrastructure, but particularly I think they’re being very modest in describing the fact that they’re doing it in half the time,” he said.
Three other missions are heading for Mars over the next year, including NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover, China’s Tianwen-1, which will launch next month, and ExoMars, a collaboration between the European Space Agency and the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

When a Saudi went to space
Prince Sultan bin Salman speaks exclusively to Arab News about his 1985 NASA mission and how he became the first Arab, Muslim and royal in space

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Oman to end COVID-19 curfew for individuals and vehicles

Oman to end COVID-19 curfew for individuals and vehicles
Updated 3 min 23 sec ago

Oman to end COVID-19 curfew for individuals and vehicles

Oman to end COVID-19 curfew for individuals and vehicles

DUBAI: Individuals and vehicles will no longer be subject to curfews starting on Saturday, after Oman’s COVID-19 Supreme Committee issued on Thursday a list of changes in restrictions.

The Committee also issued a ban on hosting any commercial activities inside stores between 8pm and 4am daily limiting the service to delivery. Groceries and supermarkets are exempt.

Moreover, the Supreme Committee maintained that within the hours of operation, stores, outlets, malls, restaurants and cafes will be permitted to accommodate up to 50 percent only.

The Committee also re-activated its decision to have only half of public sector employees reporting to work meanwhile the remaining will work remotely.


Israeli troops mass at Gaza border amid rocket fire, air strikes and clashes in Israel

Israeli troops mass at Gaza border amid rocket fire, air strikes and clashes in Israel
Updated 13 May 2021

Israeli troops mass at Gaza border amid rocket fire, air strikes and clashes in Israel

Israeli troops mass at Gaza border amid rocket fire, air strikes and clashes in Israel
  • At least 83 people have been killed in Gaza since violence escalated on Monday
  • Seven people have been killed in Israel, its military said

GAZA/JERUSALEM: Israeli troops massed at Gaza’s border on Thursday and Palestinian militants pounded Israel with rockets in intense hostilities that have caused international concern and touched off clashes between Jews and Arabs in Israel.
Days of violence between Jewish Israelis and the country’s Arab minority worsened overnight, with synagogues attacked and fighting breaking out on the streets of some communities.
With concern growing that the violence that flared on Monday could spiral out of control, the United States is sending an envoy, Hady Amr, to the region. But efforts to end the worst hostilities in years appear so far to have made no progress.
In renewed air strikes on Gaza, Israel struck a six-story residential building in Gaza City that it said belonged to Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Palestinian enclave.
At least 83 people have been killed in Gaza since violence escalated on Monday, medics said, further straining hospitals already under heavy pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are facing Israel and Covid-19. We are in between two enemies,” said Asad Karam, 20, a construction worker, standing beside a road damaged during the air strikes. An electricity pole had collapsed by the road, its wires severed.
In the latest Palestinian rocket attacks, one rocket crashed into a building near Israel’s commercial capital of Tel Aviv, injuring five Israelis, police said. Sirens blared in cities across southern Israel, sending thousands running for shelters.
Seven people have been killed in Israel, its military said.
“All of Israel is under attack. It’s a very scary situation to be in,” said Margo Aronovic, a 26-year-old student, in Tel Aviv.
Israel has prepared combat troops along the Gaza border and was in “various stages of preparing ground operations,” a military spokesman said, a move that would recall similar incursions during Israel-Gaza wars in 2014 and 2008-2009.
Health authorities in Gaza said they were investigating the deaths of several people overnight who they said may have inhaled poisonous gas. Samples were being examined and they had yet to draw any final conclusions, they said.
US President Joe Biden said he hoped fighting “will be closing down sooner than later.” A British minister urged Israel and Hamas to “take a step back” from the escalation.
’Open-ended’ Confrontation
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to “continue acting to strike at the military capabilities of Hamas” and other Gaza groups. Hamas is regarded as a terrorist group by the United States and Israel.
On Wednesday, Israeli forces killed a senior Hamas commander and bombed several buildings, including high-rises and a bank, which Israel said was linked to the faction’s activities.
Hamas signalled defiance, with its leader, Ismail Haniyeh, saying: “The confrontation with the enemy is open-ended.”
Israel launched its offensive after Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near Al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Turkey, whose hosting of Hamas leaders in Istanbul in recent years has contributed to a falling out with Israel, called on Muslim countries to show a united and clear stance over the Israel-Gaza violence.
In the fighting inside Israel, where some in the 21 percent Arab minority have mounted violent pro-Palestinian protests, attacks by Jews on Arabs passing by in ethnically mixed areas have worsened.
One person was in critical condition after being shot by Arabs in the Arab-Jewish town of Lod, where authorities imposed a curfew, police said.
Over 150 arrests were made overnight in Lod and Arab towns in northern Israel, police said.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called for an end to “this madness.”
“We are endangered by rockets that are being launched at our citizens and streets, and we are busying ourselves with a senseless civil war among ourselves,” said the president, whose role is largely ceremonial.
Flights canceled
A number of foreign carriers have canceled flights to Israel because of the unrest.
The fatalities in Israel include a soldier killed while patrolling the Gaza border and six civilians, including two children and an Indian worker, medical authorities said.
Gaza’s health ministry said 17 of the people killed in the enclave were children and seven were women. The Israeli military said some 400 of 1,600 rockets fired by Gaza factions had fallen short, potentially causing some Palestinian civilian casualties.
The conflict has led to the freezing of talks by Netanyahu’s opponents on forming a governing coalition to unseat him after Israel’s inconclusive March 23 election.
Although the latest problems in Jerusalem were the immediate trigger for hostilities, Palestinians are frustrated by setbacks to their aspirations for an independent state in recent years.
These include Washington’s recognition of disputed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a US plan to end the conflict that they saw as favorable to Israel and settlement building.


Yemen’s President says Houthis reacted with violence to peace efforts

Yemen’s President says Houthis reacted with violence to peace efforts
Updated 13 May 2021

Yemen’s President says Houthis reacted with violence to peace efforts

Yemen’s President says Houthis reacted with violence to peace efforts
  • The Yemeni President said the Houthis went on committing crimes and massacres against the civilians
  • The FM of the UK Raab called on the Houthis to meet with the UN Special Envoy to Yemen and end their blocking of peace

DUBAI: Yemen’s president said the government has reacted constructively to peace efforts, but said the Houthi militia responded with more violence, state news agency SabaNew reported.
“We have dealt constructively with all efforts and calls for peace by the UN and International Community, we frequently offered concessions in order to stop bloodshed and put an end to our peoples’ suffering after more than six years, but this terrorist militia responded with more escalation,” SabaNew quoted Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s address to the people on the occasion of Eid.
He said the Houthis “went on committing crimes and massacres against the civilians, firing ballistic missiles and drones on the cities, residential areas in our country and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a move [that] reflected the behavior of these militias of terrorism, malice, criminal tendency and acting to serve the Iranian intention to trigger wars and crises,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Minister of the United Kingdom Dominic Raab called on the Houthis to meet with the UN Special Envoy to Yemen and end their blocking of peace.
“We continue to witness harrowing stories of Yemeni children being forced into battle and women being kidnapped in Houthi territory. The UK calls on the Houthis to meet with @OSE_Yemen and end their Marib offensive & the blocking of peace,” he tweeted.


UN Security Council urges immediate cease-fire in Yemen

UN Security Council urges immediate cease-fire in Yemen
Updated 13 May 2021

UN Security Council urges immediate cease-fire in Yemen

UN Security Council urges immediate cease-fire in Yemen
  • Council singles out military escalation by Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels in the oil-rich central province of Marib

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council called for an immediate halt to fighting in Yemen on Wednesday, saying that only a lasting cease-fire and political settlement can end the six-year conflict in the Arab world’s poorest nation and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
In calling for a cessation of hostilities, the council singled out the military escalation by Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels in the oil-rich central province of Marib, the internationally recognized government’s last stronghold in Yemen’s northern half. The offensive has put at risk an estimated 1 million civilians who have fled there since 2015 to escape fighting elsewhere.
The council’s press statement followed a briefing by UN special envoy Martin Griffiths, who said he couldn’t emphasize enough that the more than yearlong Houthi offensive “has caused an astonishing loss of life, including children who have been mercilessly thrown into the battle.”
Displaced people in Marib are living in fear for their lives, he said, “and the offensive has been until now constantly disrupting peace efforts.”
In 2014, the Houthis overran the capital, Sanaa, and much of Yemen’s north, driving the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile. A US-backed, Saudi-led coalition intervened the following year against the Houthis seeking to restore Hadi’s rule.
The intensified fighting in Marib has come amid an international and regional diplomatic push to end the conflict.
“The longer the Marib offensive goes on, the greater the risk to Yemen’s broader stability and social cohesion,” Griffiths warned. “It may lead to the transfer of conflict to other areas in Yemen, including those which have remained mercifully far from the main theaters of conflict. Yemen is an unstable country, easily destabilized.”
Griffiths expressed fear the Marib offensive may suggest to some that the war can be won militarily, but he said military conquest will only fuel further cycles of violence and unrest. He said Yemen can only be governed effectively by an “inclusive partnership” of “different political forces and components.”
UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the council that about 25,000 people have fled the fighting in Marib, many for the second or third time. If the fighting doesn’t stop, he said, “aid agencies fear up to 385,000 people could be displaced in the coming months.”
Lowcock warned that “famine is still stalking the country, with five million people just a step away from starving,” and COVID-19 cases are still surging, “pushing the health care system to collapse.” Famine, disease and other miseries are the result of the war and that is why “it is so important to stop the fighting,” he said.
Since March 2020, Griffiths has been trying to get the Houthis and the government to commit to a nationwide cease-fire, to reopen Sanaa airport to commercial traffic, ensure an uninterrupted flow of fuel and commodities through the main port of Hodeida, and to resume a political process aimed at reaching a political settlement.
“I am here to say that a deal is still very much possible,” Griffiths told the council.
“There is strong international backing and there is regional momentum for the UN’s efforts,” he said, expressing gratitude to Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United States and others. They are working closely and “without any differences between us,” he said.
Griffiths said the differences between the parties in Yemen “are not unbridgeable” and “a deal can be achieved easily, very quickly,” if both sides agree.
But he told the council that on several occasions during negotiations, the Houthis refused to meet with him, including recently. “To say this sends a wrong signal is an understatement,” he said.
Security Council members expressed support for Griffiths “and expressed their expectation that the Houthis meet him soon.”
Shortly after the council meeting ended, Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres announced the appointment of Griffiths as the UN’s next humanitarian chief, replacing Lowcock. But Guterres said Griffiths will continue to serve as the UN’s top envoy for Yemen “until a transition has been announced.”
In the coming weeks, Griffiths said, all countries should push the parties, in particular the Houthis, to conclude negotiations so the fighting stops.
“And I would like to be able to resolve that before we meet again,” he said.


President Abbas says will continue to do ‘everything possible’ to defend the Palestinian people

President Abbas says will continue to do ‘everything possible’ to defend the Palestinian people
Updated 13 May 2021

President Abbas says will continue to do ‘everything possible’ to defend the Palestinian people

President Abbas says will continue to do ‘everything possible’ to defend the Palestinian people
  • Abbas says they would not accept the fait accompli that Israel wants to impose in Jerusalem
  • The Palestinian president demanded that US and Israel end to the occupation

LONDON: President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday that his government is doing everything possible to defend the Palestinian people.
The aging Palestinian leader said he was working to stop Israeli forces and settlers harming Jerusalem and other Palestinian territories.
His comments came at the start of a leadership meeting at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah to discuss the repercussions of “Israel’s aggression toward the Palestinian people.”
“The continued aggression of the occupation forces against our people everywhere, including the aggression on the Gaza Strip, exceeded all limits, throwing out all international norms and conventions,” Abbas said.
“This puts us in front of very difficult choices imposed by the national duty in defending our sanctities, our rights and our people,” he added.
The president said that “Jerusalem is a red line, it is the heart and soul of Palestine and its eternal capital, and there is no peace, security or stability except with its complete liberation.”
The Palestinian president said they would not accept the fait accompli that Israel wants to impose in Jerusalem by targeting the Palestinian presence.
He said Israel was carrying out war crimes and ethnic cleansing to remove the Arab Islamic identity of Jerusalem.
An angry Abbas, said this was being done by stealing homes and desecrating religious sites such as the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Directing his speech to the US and Israel, Abbas demanded an end to the occupation, adding that the Palestinians will never leave their homeland.
He said the Palestinian families living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood who are facing eviction by Israel, will not leave.