UAE Hope Probe ‘already a success’ before reaching Mars

Currently traveling through space at approximately 120,000 km per hour, the Hope Probe will enter the orbit of Mars on Feb. 9, making the UAE just the fifth nation ever to reach the red planet. (Screen grab)
Currently traveling through space at approximately 120,000 km per hour, the Hope Probe will enter the orbit of Mars on Feb. 9, making the UAE just the fifth nation ever to reach the red planet. (Screen grab)
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Updated 09 February 2021

UAE Hope Probe ‘already a success’ before reaching Mars

UAE Hope Probe ‘already a success’ before reaching Mars
  • 7 months since its launch, Hope Probe due to enter planet’s orbit on Feb. 9
  • Mission a ‘catalyst’ in creating advanced science sector in UAE: Project manager

LONDON: After traversing hundreds of millions of kilometers, the UAE’s inaugural spacecraft — the Hope Probe — is just days away from reaching Mars, but the mission’s positive impact at home has already made it a success, the leadership behind the project has said.
Currently traveling through space at approximately 120,000 km per hour, the Hope Probe will enter the orbit of Mars on Feb. 9, making the UAE just the fifth nation ever to reach the red planet.
This is a “critically important milestone,” Omran Sharaf, project manager at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC), said in a webinar held on Monday by the Emirates Society and attended by Arab News.
“But this project wasn’t just about reaching Mars. Science and data is extremely important and one of the main drivers of the mission, but there’s much more to it than that.”

The UAE’s Mars mission “aimed to create disruptive change and a positive impact at home, and to inspire a shift in the priorities of the Emirati youth,” Sharaf said.
He added that the project is already acting as a “catalyst” in Emirati society that has triggered and supported the creation of an advanced science sector in the UAE.
The “build it, don’t buy it” philosophy behind the mission has been instrumental in developing confidence in the UAE’s science, technology and research sectors, he said.

Sarah Al-Amiri, the UAE’s minister of state for advanced sciences, said the mission “has taught us a mechanism by which we’re able to develop talent and capabilities, transfer them through different levels of expertise and, more importantly, develop small businesses that can cater to big industries.”
The country’s rapidly maturing space industry, she added, will play a key role in the creation of new private sector enterprises in the UAE.
Not only has the mission spurred a scientific awakening in the UAE, it has also demonstrated the country’s commitment to multilateralism, particularly when it comes to space exploration and the data behind it.
“Since day one of this project, the direction that we’ve received from the government has been to share data from this mission openly, with everyone, and with no restrictions,” Sharaf said. “We’ve always had the intention of being open with the data collected by this mission.”

Al-Amiri reaffirmed her country’s commitment to the Artemis Accords, an international agreement aimed at ensuring peaceful collaboration among spacefaring nations.
“International collaboration will continue to grow in space, especially with the entry of new players into the space exploration realm,” she said.
“Collaboration already existed behind a lot of space missions. Our own science team is made up of international scientists from around the world — that’s the nature of space exploration,” she added.
“We continue to be a part of that, and we’ll continue to be part of the overall international landscape when it comes to exploration in space.”


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.


Oman extends COVID-19 safety measures, closes parks, beaches, leisure areas indefinitely

Oman extends COVID-19 safety measures, closes parks, beaches, leisure areas indefinitely
Updated 26 February 2021

Oman extends COVID-19 safety measures, closes parks, beaches, leisure areas indefinitely

Oman extends COVID-19 safety measures, closes parks, beaches, leisure areas indefinitely
  • Three Omani citizens convicted of violating coronavirus safety protocols

DUBAI: Oman’s Supreme Committee supervising the country’s coronavirus response has extended indefinitely the closure of beaches, public parks and leisure spaces to curb the spread of the highly contagious disease.

It reiterated the ban on indoor gatherings in resthouses, farms and winter camps, state news agency ONA reported, citing the high risk of coronavirus transmission in closed spaces.

In the North A’Sharqiyah governorate, the Supreme Committee has extended the shortened business operating hours with commercial activities required to close from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m..

Petrol stations, health establishments and private pharmacies are exempt from the updated regulation.

The latest regulations were issued as the Sultanate’s coronavirus cases reached 140,588 with 29 new patients hospitalized overnight. The total number of COVID-19 related death cases is at 1,562.

Meanwhile, three Omani citizens have been convicted of violating coronavirus safety protocols and separately fined $2,000 and sentenced to a three-month imprisonment.

“Primary Courts in the governorates of North Al Batinah and Dhofar issued penal verdicts convicting three citizens who breached decisions of the Supreme Committee” particularly non-compliance with the institutional quarantine and for not wearing a mask, ONA said in a separate report.


2 US Navy warships in the Middle East affected by coronavirus

2 US Navy warships in the Middle East affected by coronavirus
Updated 26 February 2021

2 US Navy warships in the Middle East affected by coronavirus

2 US Navy warships in the Middle East affected by coronavirus
  • The 5th Fleet patrols the waterways of the Middle East

DUBAI: Two US Navy warships operating in the Middle East have been affected by the coronavirus, authorities said Friday, with one already at port in Bahrain and another heading there now.
A dozen troops aboard the USS San Diego, an amphibious transport dock, tested positive for COVID-19, said Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet. The ship is at port in Bahrain.
“All positive cases have been isolated on board, and the ship remains in a restricted COVID bubble,” Rebarich said. “The port visit and medical support have been coordinated with the host nation government and Bahrain Ministry of Health.”
The second ship, the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea, has “several persons under investigation” for possible coronavirus infections, Rebarich said. The ship is expected to pull into port for further testing at a port she declined to name, citing “operational security.”
The San Diego has a capacity to carry nearly 700 personnel, while the Philippine Sea can carry over 300.
The 5th Fleet patrols the waterways of the Middle East. Its vessels often have tense encounters with Iran in the Arabian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Gulf through which 20 percent of all oil traded worldwide passes.