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.”