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)
Short Url
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

Enter


keywords

EU sees must-not-miss chance to revive Iran nuclear deal

EU sees must-not-miss chance to revive Iran nuclear deal
Updated 15 min 33 sec ago

EU sees must-not-miss chance to revive Iran nuclear deal

EU sees must-not-miss chance to revive Iran nuclear deal
  • Nuclear deal almost collapsed after the Trump administration unilaterally pulled the US out three years ago

BRUSSELS: The top European Union diplomat supervising the international agreement aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions called Friday for a concerted effort to reinvigorate the pact even as Tehran appears to be reneging on some of its commitments.
“This is an occasion that we cannot miss,” to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters via video-link.
The deal almost collapsed after the Trump administration unilaterally pulled the US out three years ago, triggering crippling economic sanctions on Iran. Britain, France and Germany notably struggled to keep it alive and have been heartened by President Joe Biden’s willingness to bring the US back in.
“I am convinced as coordinator of the JCPOA that we do have diplomatic space, a diplomatic window of opportunity to dialogue” in line with Biden’s aims, Borrell said. “We need to use this opportunity and focus on solutions to bring the JCPOA back on track in order for everybody (to fulfil) their commitments.”
Iran this week effectively set a deadline to lift the US sanctions within three months, after which it said it would erase surveillance footage of its nuclear facilities. It has also limited some monitoring of its activities, which the EU says are meant to help ensure that Tehran’s nuclear work is peaceful.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has also reported that Iran has added 17.6 kilograms (38.8 pounds) of uranium enriched up to 20 percent to its stockpile as of Feb. 16 — far past the 3.67 percent purity allowed under the JCPOA.
Borrell said that Iran’s latest moves “are very much concerning.”

Soleimani’s shadow
Qassem Soleimani left a trail of death and destruction in his wake as head of Iran’s Quds Force … until his assassination on Jan. 3, 2020. Yet still, his legacy of murderous interference continues to haunt the region
Enter
keywords

HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border

HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border
Updated 26 February 2021

HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border

HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border
  • Shooting in the border area near the town of Saravan killed at least 10 people and wounded five
BEIRUT: Human Rights Watch called on Iran Friday to investigate a deadly shooting by Revolutionary Guards against smugglers attempting to transport fuel into neighboring Pakistan for excessive use of force.
Monday’s shooting in the border area near the town of Saravan killed at least 10 people and wounded five, HRW said, citing Baluchi activists.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had blocked a road used to transport fuel before apparently opening fire at people attempting to reopen the route, it added.
The action has prompted attacks by angry protesters on government buildings in both Saravan and the Sistan-Baluchistan provincial capital Zahedan.
“The Iranian authorities should urgently conduct a transparent and impartial investigation into the shootings at the Saravan border,” said HRW Iran researcher Tara Sepehri Far.
“The authorities should hold those responsible for wrongdoing to account, appropriately compensate victims and ensure that border guards are taking the utmost precautions to respect the right to life and other human rights.”
Provincial deputy governor Mohammad-Hadi Marashi said Tuesday that the shooting had started from the Pakistani side of the border and one person had been killed and four wounded.
Sistan-Baluchistan province has long been a security headache for the Iranian government.
Its large ethnic Baluch population, which staddles the frontier, has made it a flashpoint for cross-border attacks on government or Shiite targets by separatists and Sunni extremists.
HRW said the lack of employment opportunities in the province had left its ethnic Baluch population few alternatives to black market trading with their fellow Baluchs across the border.
“Similar to the western provinces of Western Azerbaijan and Kurdistan (on the border with Iraq), its lack of economic opportunities has led many residents to engage in unlawful cross-border commerce with Pakistan,” the New York-based watchdog.

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19
Updated 26 February 2021

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19
  • About 35 percent of Israel’s population had received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine

JERUSALEM: Israel has administered at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose to 50 percent of its 9.3 million population, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Friday.
Israel counts East Jerusalem Palestinians, who have been included in the vaccine campaign that began on Dec 19, as part of its population. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip are not part of the Israeli campaign.
Edelstein said 35 percent of Israel’s population had received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, putting them on course to receive a so-called “Green Pass” with access to leisure sites that the country has been gradually reopening.


Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms

Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms
Updated 26 February 2021

Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms

Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms
  • Appointing the Cabinet is part of a UN-backed transitional roadmap
  • Since 2015, Libyan state institutions have been divided between two administrations

CAIRO: Libya’s newly-elected prime minister failed to name members of a much-anticipated Cabinet ahead of an expected deadline Thursday, raising questions over whether his transitional government can unite Libya’s factions.
Prime Minister designate Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah was set to announce his Cabinet in a news conference from the capital, Tripoli, and send it to Libya’s House of Representatives for approval.
Instead, Dbeibah told reporters he only shared with Libyan lawmakers proposed guidelines for the selection of Cabinet members and an outline of his priorities in the coming period.
Appointing the Cabinet is part of a UN-backed transitional roadmap, which envisages holding general elections in the war-torn North African country by the end of the year.
Since 2015, Libyan state institutions have been divided between two administrations: One in the east and another in the west, each supported by a vast array of militias and foreign governments.
“We are ready to submit the names (of Cabinet ministers) but we should consult among ourselves and examine candidate names meticulously,” Dbeibah told reporters in Tripoli without specifying when he will actually make the submission.
Dbeibah said he envisages a Cabinet of technocrats who would represent Libya’s different geographic areas and social segments.
“These are critical times and we are taking into consideration that the Cabinet must genuinely achieve national unity and seek consensus and reconciliation,” he said.
He added that the country’s sovereign ministerial portfolios should be equally divided between candidates from Libya’s three key geographic areas in the east, the west and the south.
Earlier this month, Dbeibah was elected as prime minister by Libyan delegates at a UN-sponsored conference near Geneva.
The 75-member Libyan Political Dialogue Forum also elected a three-member Presidential Council, which along with Dbeibah should lead the country through general elections on December 24. Mohammad Younes Menfi, a Libyan diplomat from the country’s east, was selected as chairman of the council.


Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures

Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures
Updated 26 February 2021

Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures

Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures
  • The Janssen Covid-19 Vaccine will be the fifth vaccine authorized in Bahrain in the fight against the spread of COVID-19
  • The announcement comes as the Government Executive Committee extended precautionary measures

DUBAI: Bahrain’s National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) has authorized the use of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine for coronavirus the Bahrain News Agency reported on Friday.

The Janssen Covid-19 Vaccine will be the fifth vaccine authorized in Bahrain in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 and will be given to those most at risk, suchas the elderly, people with chronic diseases and other groups identified by the Health Ministry.

The announcement comes as the Government Executive Committee extended precautionary measures, aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, for an additional three months.

The measures involve the continued enforcement of  social distancing and screening of people at commercial and industrial premises for a further three months.