Former NASA scientist hopes UAE Mars mission inspires young people in the Middle East

Charles Elachi, the retired director of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is helping the UAE with its Mars mission. (AFP/File)
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Updated 26 June 2020

Former NASA scientist hopes UAE Mars mission inspires young people in the Middle East

  • Charles Elachi is an advisor to the UAE Space Agency and former director of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Hope Mission expected to blast off on July 15

LOS ANGELES: A former NASA scientist advising the UAE space program said he hopes the Emirates' upcoming Mars mission will inspire young scientists in the Middle East.

The Mars Hope Mission is expected to blast off on July 15 with the aim of sending a probe to orbit the red planet.

 

 

Lending his experience as a member of the UAE Space Agency Advisory Board is Lebanese-American Charles Elachi, the retired director of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“This will be the first time a Middle Eastern country will be sending a spacecraft you know to Mars,” Elachi, who managed the launch of the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers, told Arab News. “I mean the Americans, we have done that and the Russians and the Europeans, so I find that extremely exciting.”

The launch comes just a few weeks after the 35th anniversary of Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman becoming the first Arab to go to space.

“I remember meeting him,” Elachi said, recalling the prince’s 1985 expedition aboard the US Space Shuttle. “But that’s a number of years ago when that actually happened and I was very proud of having an Arab astronaut and I’m in regular communication with him even now.”

Elachi began his career at NASA when there were not opportunities to pursue space exploration in the Middle East. But he sees the Hope Mission as a return to the days when the Arab World was a leader in scientific exploration. 

“I’m seeing more and more interest in activities of young people in the Middle East who want to be involved in space,” Elachi said. “By having space agencies in the Middle East like in Saudi Arabia or United Arab Emirates gives them an opportunity to actually do that.”

 

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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Italian government, Vatican City pledge support for Lebanon

Updated 19 min 18 sec ago

Italian government, Vatican City pledge support for Lebanon

  • PM Conte said Italy had already arranged to send “personnel and material” and was “ready to provide any further assistance requested”

ROME: Italy’s government pledged on Friday to assist Lebanon after two explosions in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, earlier this week caused widespread damage, leaving more than 150 people dead and thousands injured.

One of the victims of the blasts was a 92-year-old Italian woman, and two Italian soldiers from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon were wounded.

In a telephone call with Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte expressed his country’s “deepest condolences” and offered his “unconditional support” to Lebanon.

Conte said Italy had already arranged to send “personnel and material” and was “ready to provide any further assistance requested.”

A statement from Conte’s office said the two prime ministers agreed to stay in close contact.

Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said that a flight carrying 8.5 tons of medical supplies had been sent to Lebanon and more aid would follow if required, promising his Lebanese counterpart Charbel Whebe: “Italy will keep on helping Lebanon. The Lebanese people will not be left alone in this hardship.

“After such a tragedy the international community must react promptly and give help. Italy and Lebanon are on the same side,” he added.

Speaking to Italian TV news channel TG5, Di Maio said: “What happened in Lebanon is a tragedy. To us Italians, Lebanon is like a second home and helping that country means to help stabilizing it. The entire Mediterranean will benefit from the stabilization of Lebanon.”

Two Italian Air Force flights landed in Beirut this week, the first one carrying a team of 22 experts in the fields of CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) and structural stability of buildings, and the second loaded with the 8.5 tons of health supplies (surgical and trauma kits) donated to the Lebanese Armed Forces, to benefit Lebanese public hospitals.

In terms of humanitarian aid, the Agency for Development Cooperation of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is finalizing emergency contributions of 700,000 Euros ($823,000) to the Lebanese Red Cross, $1.76 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross, $1.18 million to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and $2.35 million for projects implemented by Italian NGOs.

The Italian government also said it is ready to respond to any appeals launched by the United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in the near future.

Pope Francis has also donated just under $300,000 from the Vatican to “support the needs of the Lebanese church in (this) time of great difficulty and suffering.”