UAE Hope Probe expected to provide first complete picture of Mars in one week

UAE Hope Probe expected to provide first complete picture of Mars in one week
Omran Sharaf, project manager at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center, left, and Sarah Al-Amiri, the UAE’s minister of state for advanced sciences and chair of the UAE Space Agency, discuss points at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center. (Arab News Japan)
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Updated 14 February 2021

UAE Hope Probe expected to provide first complete picture of Mars in one week

UAE Hope Probe expected to provide first complete picture of Mars in one week
  • Entry to orbit on the first attempt marked the end of a seven-month journey of nearly 500 million kilometers

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates’ robotic probe, named Hope entered Martian orbit, making it the fifth agency to successfully reach the red planet’s gravitational zone, joining NASA, the former Soviet Union, the European Space Agency and India.

In recent days, a number of prominent buildings and monuments across the Arab world, including Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower on Earth, were lit up at night in red in honor of Mars, the red planet.

“We officially transitioned today from the Mars orbit insertion phase and into Mars’ orbit. For the next two months, we will be preparing the spacecraft and the scientific instruments for going into the ‘Science Orbit,” Omran Sharaf, project manager at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC), said in a press conference held Wednesday in MBRSC attended by Arab News.

Formally called Mars Orbit Insertion, the milestone was a critical step that required Hope to burn about half of its 800kg of fuel for 27 minutes to slow down enough for the spacecraft to be captured by Mars’ gravity and go into orbit. The probe rotated and fired all six of its powerful Delta V thrusters and slowed down from its average cruising speed of 121,000 kph to about 18,000 kph with no support from the mission’s engineers on the ground.

“In this process, we will have to calibrate the scientific instruments to make sure that the data is accurate so that by the time we start our science mission we are able to provide accurate data to the scientific community. We hope to get the first image one week from now, but that is independent from the preparations that we are doing for the science mission,” Sharaf added.

If attained, the Hope Probe will be the first probe to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere and its layers.

Entry to orbit on the first attempt marked the end of a seven-month journey of nearly 500 million kilometers, the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission, the beginning of a breakthrough in scientific research and placed the Hope spacecraft on the bright side of grim Mars mission statistics: About than half of all the spacecraft that have been sent to Mars have failed.

Sharaf elaborated that the reason behind the UAE’s ability to overcome this complex maneuver, given the difficulty of the journey and the challenges that other countries have faced was because they “did not start from zero, but rather started where others ended.”

Hope’s engineers have practiced the maneuver repeatedly on data from other missions and hypothetical data through conducting over 100,000 tests in different scenarios within the span of two years to ensure that the probe successfully arrives to Mars, according to Sharaf.

Reaffirming his country’s commitment to the Artemis Accords, an international agreement aimed at ensuring peaceful collaboration among spacefaring nations, Sharaf said that “since day one of this project, the direction that we’ve received from the government has been to learn from others. Countries tend to perceive space exploration as a competition or as a race, but the UAE perceives it as an international cooperative space mission. Instead of starting everything from scratch and innovating alone, we built our project with and upon the research accumulated. For this reason, we had 450 people from different continents working on this project, of which 200 were Emiratis. So, the team collaborated as one under a single identity, which was the Mars Mission,” Sharaf said.

The Emirates Mars Mission is part of a larger investigation that planetary scientists have been pursuing for decades, hoping to discover what transformed Mars from a potentially habitable planet to the barren one seen today.

Hope will orbit Mars at a higher altitude than any previous Mars mission as it will orbit nearly parallel to the equator, allowing scientists to see half of the planet regardless of where the orbiter. Whereas most other Mars orbiters move around the poles, which limits the observation of global weather patterns. Its elliptical orbit will also help scientists learn more about how the nature of dust storms and other weather conditions near the surface can affect the speed at which Martian air leaks into outer space.

“The aim is to investigate the Martian atmosphere and to understand what happened on the red planet. As humans, we have a have a dead planet in front of us and something had happened to this planet within its atmospheric history that made it this way. We want to discover what happened there and what lead to the planet’s transformation to understand our solar system and the changes that happen within it as well as the changes that happen around our planet,” Sharaf said.

Despite the fact that Hope is a science mission, the data that it will gather is considered secondary to the primary goal of inspiring young people to practice science in order to accelerate the country’s transition towards becoming a knowledge-based economy.

Sarah Al-Amiri, the UAE’s minister of state for advanced sciences and chair of the UAE Space Agency, said that the mission “has raised the ceilings of the young generation in terms of what they are capable of dreaming and becoming. After yesterday, I don’t think that there is an Emirati household that will perceive space exploration in the same manner. If one of their children aspire to become planetary scientists or delve into space exploration, no one can tell them that it is impossible.”

“The most significant objective of the Emirates Mars Mission is to spur a young generation of scientists and engineers to get into space systems development in order to assist the UAE in entering the space economy.”

“There is no activity that matches the unique challenges of space exploration. The outcome of a project like the Emirates Mars Mission will not only be visible today or in the development of sectors in the upcoming years, but it will be ingrained in the minds of schoolchildren, change their mindsets and introduce them to a world of new opportunities.”

“This mission gives strong reason for confidence that the investments made in space exploration will have positive impacts for future generations of the UAE.”


Israeli military confirms three rockets fired from Lebanon

A patrol unit of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is stationed in the southernmost Lebanese town of Naqura by the border with Israel. (AFP/File Photo)
A patrol unit of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is stationed in the southernmost Lebanese town of Naqura by the border with Israel. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 7 sec ago

Israeli military confirms three rockets fired from Lebanon

A patrol unit of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is stationed in the southernmost Lebanese town of Naqura by the border with Israel. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Lebanese security forces also confirmed that at least three rockets were fired from south of country

JERUSALEM: Three rockets were launched from Lebanon toward northern Israel on Thursday but landed in the Mediterranean sea, causing no damage or casualties, the Israeli military said.

Lebanese security forces also confirmed that at least three rockets were fired from the south of Lebanon toward Israel.

More to follow...


Egypt receives 2.2 mln AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccine doses

Egypt receives 2.2 mln AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccine doses
Updated 13 May 2021

Egypt receives 2.2 mln AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccine doses

Egypt receives 2.2 mln AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccine doses
  • The country received its first COVAX delivery of 854,000 AstraZeneca doses at the start of April
  • Some 2.7 million people have registered online with the health ministry to receive a vaccine Some 2.7 million people have registered online with the health ministry to receive a vaccine

CAIRO: Egypt has received a batch of over 1.7 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses through the COVAX initiative and a separate shipment of 500,000 Sinopharm vaccine doses from China, the health ministry said on Thursday.
The country received its first COVAX delivery of 854,000 AstraZeneca doses at the start of April. It has also received several shipments of the Sinopharm vaccine, bringing the total number of vaccine doses delivered to 5 million, the health ministry said.
Egypt has an agreement for the supply of 20 million Sinopharm doses, and has been allocated 4.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through COVAX.
It is preparing to produce the Sinovac and Sputnik vaccines locally.
Egypt, with a population of just over 100 million, is trying to contain a third wave of COVID-19 infections and the government has put in place some restrictive measures until May 21, shortening opening hours and banning large gatherings.
Some 2.7 million people have registered online with the health ministry to receive a vaccine. Authorities opened a mass vaccination center in Cairo this month capable of vaccinating 10,000 people per day.
Egypt had officially confirmed 240,927 coronavirus cases including 14,091 deaths as of Wednesday.
Officials and experts say the real number of infections is far higher, but is not reflected in government figures because of low testing rates and the exclusion of private test results.


Macron holds talks with Mahmoud Abbas, will discuss Gaza situation with Netanyahu

French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris. (Reuters)
French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris. (Reuters)
Updated 13 May 2021

Macron holds talks with Mahmoud Abbas, will discuss Gaza situation with Netanyahu

French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris. (Reuters)

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron is concerned by the escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians and called for a “definite reset” of negotiations between the two sides, the French presidency said on Thursday.

Palestinian militants fired more rockets into Israel’s commercial heartland on Thursday as Israel kept up a punishing bombing campaign in Gaza and massed tanks and troops on the enclave’s border. 

Other world leaders also called from calm, with US President Joe Biden saying Thursday he hoped fighting “will be closing down” sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also appealed in a video call for an end to the fighting.

“The main goal is to stop violent acts from both sides and ensure the safety of the civilian population,” the Kremlin said in a statement.


UAE allows Pfizer COVID-19 dose for emergency use in 12-15 year olds

UAE allows Pfizer COVID-19 dose for emergency use in 12-15 year olds
Updated 13 May 2021

UAE allows Pfizer COVID-19 dose for emergency use in 12-15 year olds

UAE allows Pfizer COVID-19 dose for emergency use in 12-15 year olds

The UAE has approved the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in children aged 12-15, the government said on Thursday, having already permitted its use for 16 years and above.
The UAE's health ministry approved its use, the government's Twitter account said. The US Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved the use of the vaccine in children as young as 12.


Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan

Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan
Updated 13 May 2021

Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan

Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan
  • Violence lay heavy on hearts of parents of children dressed in new clothes and clutching balloons reveling to celebrate Eid al-Fitr in Jerusalem’s Old City
  • As sun began to break over al-Aqsa mosque crowds of Palestinians gathered for the first prayers to mark Ramadan’s end

JERUSALEM: Dressed in sparkly new clothes and clutching balloons, excited children Thursday revelled in the Muslim Eid Al-Fitr celebrations in Jerusalem’s Old City.
But days of violence lay heavy on their parents’ hearts.
As the first rays of sun began to break over the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam, crowds of Palestinians gathered for the first prayers to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
The three-day festival is traditionally celebrated with mosque prayers, family feasts and shopping for new clothes, gifts and sweets.
Stalls stacked high with colorful plastic toys, or tasty sesame-dipped snacks that are a Jerusalem specialty, tempted the crowds snaking along the Old City’s narrow stone streets.
At the centuries-old Damascus Gate, scene of violent clashes between Israeli Arabs and police at the start of Ramadan, two huge bundles of helium-filled balloons fluttered in the spring breeze. Mickey Mouse and Spiderman could be spotted bobbing among them.
Just three days ago, Israeli police deployed so-called skunk water there — a putrid mixture of sewage water — to disperse the crowds after a weekend of unrest in different parts of Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem.
Hundreds of Palestinians were injured as well as dozens of Israeli police in the clashes which also erupted on the Temple Mount, the most sacred site in Judaism, on which the Al-Aqsa mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock shrine also stand.
The convulsion of violence has since spread, engulfing the Gaza Strip run by the Islamic militant Hamas movement, the Palestinian territory of the West Bank and Israeli cities which have seen unprecedented mob clashes between Jewish and Arab residents.
On Thursday the boom of rocket fire could be periodically heard in Jerusalem, where calm has mainly returned to the streets. But many believe it may just be the calm before a further storm.
“Do you see any problems, there, right now? No,” said Jabbar, who is in his 60s, pointing at crowds of Palestinians being carefully watched by heavily-armed Israeli police at Damascus gate.
“But it could flare up again at any minute,” he warned grimly.
“Everything will return to normal if God so wishes it,” said Fefka, who lives in the east Jerusalem quarter of Issawiya.
“The violence has to stop, but everything is only done for the settlers here,” she added angrily.
“Jerusalem is also ours,” she insisted, denouncing Israeli settlers who have moved into the east of the city since it was seized in the 1967 war.
According to the United Nations, east Jerusalem has been illegally occupied and annexed by Israel since then.
Hiba, 26, and Soujoud, 21, have been visiting the Al-Aqsa compound since Friday, the day the troubles erupted, triggered by the threat of evicting Palestinian families from their east Jerusalem homes to allow settlers to move in.
“Morning and evening, we stayed at Al-Aqsa,” said Soujoud, a secretarial student. “We don’t want any problems (with the police), but the mosque is ours and we have to defend it,” she added.
On the site, which overlooks the sprawling Old City below, children were entertained by a clown, while adults brandished Hamas flags and rolled out banners praising the Islamist movement.
“Jerusalem is a red line,” read one of the banners.
On Al-Wad Street which crosses the Old City, some passers-by were wearing shirts decorated with Palestinian flags, others had painted them on the cheeks.
Many were wearing the black-and-white chequered keffiyah scarf which has become a symbol of the Palestinian cause.
“We feel very sad for the Eid today, because of the situation and the violence,” said Hiba.
“We can’t be happy when we see what is happening in Gaza and elsewhere.”