Arab world basks in the glory of UAE Mars mission triumph

Entry to orbit marked the end of a seven-month journey of nearly 500 million kilometers, the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission, and the beginning of a breakthrough in scientific research. (Supplied)
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Entry to orbit marked the end of a seven-month journey of nearly 500 million kilometers, the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission, and the beginning of a breakthrough in scientific research. (Supplied)
Arab world basks in the glory of UAE Mars mission triumph
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Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is lit up in red on February 9, 2021 as the UAE’s probe’s to Mars carries out a tricky maneuver to enter Mars’ orbit. (AFP)
Arab world basks in the glory of UAE Mars mission triumph
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The Dubai Frame landmark is lit up in red ahead of the UAE’s Hope probe’s arrival in Mars’ orbit. (AFP)
Arab world basks in the glory of UAE Mars mission triumph
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The Burj Al-Arab hotel is illuminated in red as the UAE’s Hope enters Mars’ orbit. (AFP)
Arab world basks in the glory of UAE Mars mission triumph
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The Kuwait Towers are illuminated in red in Kuwait City to celebrate the UAE’s Hope probe mission to Mars on Feb. 9, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 14 February 2021

Arab world basks in the glory of UAE Mars mission triumph

Arab world basks in the glory of UAE Mars mission triumph
  • Entry of Hope probe into Red Planet’s orbit marked success of Arab world’s first interplanetary mission
  • Tuesday’s feat puts UAE’s space agency in a club of just five that have pulled off a functioning Mars mission

DUBAI: For months, the Hope probe’s journey to Mars had been tracked eagerly by the Arab news media. In the UAE, hoardings depicting the unmanned spacecraft (known in Arabic as Al-Amal) have been positioned along highways as part of the country’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

On Tuesday, landmarks across the Arab world, including Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower on Earth, glowed red to mark the probe’s arrival at Mars.

Seven months after its launch from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center, the probe completed its 495 million kilometer voyage and settled into orbit around the planet in a triumph for the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission.

Ground controllers at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) in Dubai rose to their feet and applauded when news broke that the Hope probe had begun circling the Red Planet, where it will gather data on the Martian atmosphere.

Omran Sharaf, project manager of the Emirates Mars Mission, announced: “To the people of UAE and to the peoples of Islamic and Arab nations, we announce the success of the United Arab Emirates in (reaching) the orbit of the Red Planet. We thank God.”

The craft swung into a high Martian orbit, joining six spacecraft already operating around the planet — three US, two European and one Indian. Mission controllers had to pull off a series of delicate turns and power adjustments to maneuver the probe into position.

“Anything goes even slightly wrong and you lose the spacecraft,” said Sarah Al-Amiri, minister of state for advanced technology and the chair of the UAE’s space agency.

She described the mission’s success as “a historic development and a fulfilment for the dreams of 200 engineers and scientists” who worked behind the scenes.

The Hope’s arrival puts the UAE in a league of just five space agencies in history that have pulled off a functioning Mars mission. Two more unmanned spacecraft from the US and China are following close behind, set to arrive at the planet in the next several days.




Dubai’s Crown Prince Hamdan bin Mohammed Al-Maktoum watches the mission to Mars unfold at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center. (Supplied)

All three missions were launched in July last year to take advantage of the close alignment of Earth and Mars.

In a congratulatory tweet on Tuesday addressed to the Emiratis, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s science mission chief, said: “Your bold endeavor to explore the Red Planet will inspire many others to reach for the stars. We hope to join you at Mars soon with Perseverance.”

Speaking to Arab News, Salem Al-Marri, assistant director general for scientific and technical affairs at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, said: “The (completion of the Mars orbit insertion) means a lot: Within 15 years, building capabilities at the center to be able to build satellites, launch astronauts and build a mission like this to Mars.

“The first thing that it means to the country and to us is that we have the capability to build such technologies. Number two is that now we have a mission that has a global impact. Its importance is on a global level, so the data that we’re going to get from this mission is going to benefit everybody studying the Martian atmosphere who wants to understand the planet better.

“I think a mission such as this means a lot everybody.”

Earlier, Hessa Al-Matrooshi, science lead of Data Analysis and Management of EMM at the space center, had said in an interview: “There are many similarities between Earth and how Mars was about 2 billion years ago. Data has shown traces of water on the Red Planet 2 billion years ago. We believe it had a very thick atmosphere, it had water and liquid state.

“If you look at Mars now, a lot has happened. It has a very thin atmosphere and you don’t find traces of water unless it’s water vapor and ice. The question is why the drastic transformation happened. Through this, we can understand factors taking place on Earth that can lead to similar results, thus preventing it.”

The Hope probe was assembled in Boulder, Colorado, before being sent to Japan for launch aboard a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H2A rocket.

The $200 million cost of the mission is considered among the lowest in the world when compared with similar programs, Mohammad Al-Gergawi, the UAE minister for cabinet affairs, said in a tweet last year.

However, the price tag excludes operating costs at Mars. The Chinese and US expeditions are considerably more complicated — and expensive — because of their rover exploration devices. NASA’s Perseverance mission has a likely cost of $3 billion.

Nevertheless, the success of the mission represents a tremendous boost to the UAE’s space ambitions. It follows decades of preparations and work to achieve a grand vision set out in the 1970s by the UAE’s founder, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nayhan. His interest in space was triggered by a meeting in 1976 with NASA astronauts who had flown a number of Apollo missions to the Moon.

US President Richard Nixon had presented Sheikh Zayed with a gift of a lunar rock collected from the Taurus-Littrow Valley during the 1972 Apollo 17 mission. Soon after, Sheikh Zayed sent a clear message to his people, and the world, that Emirati ambitions for space exploration would know no bounds. So began the country’s journey into space.

In 2006, the UAE began collaborating closely with universities and space agencies around the world to establish knowledge-transfer programs, with the goal of one day sending a spacecraft to Mars. However, it was not until the UAE Space Agency was formed in 2014 that the world really began to take notice of the country’s space exploration plans.

In 2017, Emirati military pilot Hazza Al-Mansouri was one of two people selected from 4,000 applicants to join the agency’s inaugural astronaut corps. After rigorous mental and physical tests, he trained in Russia as a part of an agreement between the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos.

The UAE’s first astronaut joined the crew of a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft that took off on Sept. 25, 2019, bound for the International Space Station. Al-Mansouri’s eight-day mission ended on Oct. 2, when he landed safely in Kazakhstan, after which he proudly said that he had returned with “Sheikh Zayed’s space mission achieved.”

Looking to the future of Arab space exploration, the MBRSC’s Al-Marri said: “We have a 10-year plan already in place and we have multiple teams working on multiple missions. If I talk specifically about the next step with the Emirates Mars Mission, we will start after a couple of weeks focusing on the scientific objectives.

“But the next steps in terms of the MBRC is the other 10-year plan. The next mission we have is launching, for the first time in the history of the Arab world, a mission that will land on the Moon. So, we’ll be sending a rover, it’s called Rashid Rover. We’re building that as we speak.”

— with input from agencies.

Twitter: @jumanaaltamimi

 

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Egypt announces first fully vaccinated governorate

Egypt announces first fully vaccinated governorate
Updated 43 sec ago

Egypt announces first fully vaccinated governorate

Egypt announces first fully vaccinated governorate
  • South Sinai is the governorate with the fewest COVID-19 cases and deaths, as well as the highest recovery and vaccination rate among people aged 18 and over
  • South Sinai, where the town of Sharm El-Sheikh is located, is one of the most famous tourist governorates in Egypt

CAIRO: Officials in South Sinai have announced that it has become the first governorate in Egypt whose eligible population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

According to health sources, it is the governorate with the fewest COVID-19 cases and deaths, as well as the highest recovery and vaccination rate among people aged 18 and over — the allowed age for inoculation. 

South Sinai, where the town of Sharm El-Sheikh is located, is one of the most famous tourist governorates in Egypt. It also includes famous religious sites such as Mount El-Tur and St. Catherine’s Monastery.

Maj. Gen. Khaled Fouda, governor of South Sinai, said there have only been 81 deaths from COVID-19 there since the start of the pandemic — the lowest rate among Egypt’s governorates. 

He added that South Sinai recorded only one case on Sunday night after recording no cases for two weeks in a row, bringing the total number of cases to 1,371 since the start of the pandemic, with only 29 hospitalizations. 


10,000 children killed or maimed in Yemen since 2015: UNICEF

10,000 children killed or maimed in Yemen since 2015: UNICEF
Updated 19 October 2021

10,000 children killed or maimed in Yemen since 2015: UNICEF

10,000 children killed or maimed in Yemen since 2015: UNICEF
  • Four out of every five children need humanitarian assistance in Yemen

GENEVA: Ten thousand Yemeni children have been killed after the Iran-aligned Houthi group ousted the government in 2015, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said on Tuesday.
“The Yemen conflict has just hit another shameful milestone. We now have 10,000 children who have been killed or maimed since ... March 2015,” UNICEF spokesperson James Elder told a UN briefing in Geneva after returning from a visit to Yemen.
“That is the equivalent of four children every single day,” Elder said, adding that many more child deaths or injuries went unreported.
Four out of every five children — a total of 11 million — need humanitarian assistance in Yemen, while 400,000 are suffering from acute malnutrition and more than 2 million are out of school, Elder said.
UN-led efforts to engineer a nationwide cease-fire have stalled as the Houthis resist compromise to end more than six years of a war that has caused what the UN calls the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
Hundreds of Yemenis are trapped by fierce fighting between government and Houthi forces in the northern Marib governorate, residents and a local official said last week, after battles for control of the gas-rich region displaced some 10,000 people.


Qatar forms climate change ministry, appoints finance minister

Qatar forms climate change ministry, appoints finance minister
Updated 19 October 2021

Qatar forms climate change ministry, appoints finance minister

Qatar forms climate change ministry, appoints finance minister

DUBAI: Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani has appointed Ali Bin Ahmad Al-Kuwari as finance minister in a government reshuffle, according to a statement issued by the emiri court on Tuesday.

Al-Kuwari had been serving as commerce and industry minister and as acting finance minister before the reshuffle.

Qatar's emir created an environment and climate change ministry on Tuesday, naming Faleh bin Nasser al-Thani as its minister. 

Two women were handed cabinet posts for education and social development. They join Health Minister Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari, who had been the only woman in the cabinet.

 

(with Reuters)


Egypt aviation sector sees jump in flights, passengers, cargo

Egypt aviation sector sees jump in flights, passengers, cargo
Updated 19 October 2021

Egypt aviation sector sees jump in flights, passengers, cargo

Egypt aviation sector sees jump in flights, passengers, cargo
  • There were 2.1 million aircraft passengers in July

CAIRO: There were 18,500 flights into and out of Egypt in July compared to 6,500 in the same month last year, an increase of 185 percent, according to the country’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics.

In June there were some 14,000 flights, compared to 500 in the same month last year.

There were 2.1 million aircraft passengers in July, more than quadruple the 500,000 passengers in the same month last year.

In June there were 1.6 million passengers, compared to 300,000 in the same month last year.

There were 19,200 tons of cargo transported by plane in July compared to 16,700 in the same month last year, an increase of 13 percent.

In June 21,300 tons were transported compared to 16,100 in the same month last year, an increase of 32 percent.


Lebanese parliament confirms March polls amid efforts to secure IMF rescue

Lebanese parliament confirms March polls amid efforts to secure IMF rescue
Updated 19 October 2021

Lebanese parliament confirms March polls amid efforts to secure IMF rescue

Lebanese parliament confirms March polls amid efforts to secure IMF rescue

CAIRO: Lebanon's parliament voted on Tuesday to hold legislative elections on March 27, parliamentary sources said, giving Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government only a few months to try to secure an IMF recovery plan amid a deepening economic meltdown.
Lebanon's financial crisis, labelled by the World Bank as one of the deepest depressions of modern history, had been compounded by political deadlock for over a year before Mikati put together a cabinet alongside President Michel Aoun.
The currency has lost 90% of its value and three quarters of the population have been propelled into poverty. Shortages of basic goods such as fuel and medicines have made daily life a struggle.
Mikati, whose cabinet is focused on reviving talks with the International Monetary Fund, had vowed to make sure elections are held with no delay and Western governments urged the same.
But a row over the probe into last year's Beirut port blast that killed over 200 people and destroyed large swathes of the capital is threatening to veer his cabinet off course.
Some ministers, aligned with politicians that lead investigator Judge Tarek Bitar is seeking to question over the explosion, last week demanded that the judge be removed from the probe.
Mikati has since said the cabinet will not convene another meeting until an agreement is reached on how to deal with the matter.
On Thursday, Beirut witnessed the worst street violence in over a decade with seven people killed in gunfire when protesters from the Hezbollah and Amal Shi'ite movements made their way to demonstrate against Judge Bitar.
The bloodshed, which stirred memories of the 1975-1990 civil war, added to fears for the stability of a country that is awash with weapons.
The early election date - elections were originally expected to be held in May - was chosen in order not to clash with the holy Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
Once a new parliament is elected, the Mikati cabinet will only act in a caretaker role until a new prime minister is given a vote of confidence and tasked with forming a new government.