Hope Probe carries UAE’s hopes - GulfToday

Hope Probe carries UAE’s hopes


Young Emirati team leads operations to get Hope Probe ready for launch.

The United Arab Emirates will soon be stepping into a new realm of exploration, inspiring the youth in this region to realise dreams hitherto unimaginable. The move also reaffirms the belief that there are opportunities to be tapped in space, far beyond terra firma.

On July 15, the first UAE Hope Probe will blast off. The mission: to unravel the weather dynamics in the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

The unmanned probe named Al-Amal – Arabic for Hope – is to take off from a Japanese space centre, marking the next step in the United Arab Emirates’ ambitious space programme.

Hope is expected to reach its target next year. The probe will remain in orbit for a whole Martian year – 687 days.

“The United Arab Emirates wanted to send a strong message to the Arab youth and to remind them of the past, that we used to be generators of knowledge,” Omran Sharaf, the mission’s project manager, remarked in a statement.

The UAE has built a nuclear-powered programme, sent a man to space, and now plans to join another elite club by sending a probe to Mars. Only the United States, India, the former Soviet Union, and the European Space Agency have successfully sent missions to orbit the Red Planet, while China is preparing to launch its first Mars rover later this month.

The young, dynamic team of Emiratis behind the project is showing a remarkable on-the-ball disposition, making sure all last-minute checks are foolproof. Since the arrival of the Probe at the launch station in Japan, the UAE team has continued to test all the spacecraft’s functions, including communication, software, navigation, remote control and driving systems, power and probe propulsion systems.

The 1,350-kilogramme (2,970-pound) probe – about the size of an SUV – is due to blast off from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre, with a launch window that runs until early August, depending on variables including the weather.

Hope will take seven months to travel the 493 million kilometres (307 million miles) to Mars, in time to mark the 50th anniversary of the emirates’ union in 2021.

The UAE has nine functioning satellites in orbit with plans to launch another eight in coming years. In September, it sent the first Emirati into space – Hazzaa Al Mansoori, who was part of a three-member crew blasting off from Kazakhstan. He was the first Arab national to visit the International Space Station.

The UAE always aims at several notches higher: it seeks to build a human settlement on Mars by 2117.

Dubai has hired architects to imagine what a Martian city might look like and recreate it in its desert as “Science City”, at a cost of around Dhs500 million ($135 million).

Under a national space strategy launched last year, the UAE is also eyeing future mining projects beyond Earth and space tourism, and has signed a memorandum of understanding with Richard Branson’s space tourism company Virgin Galactic.

“Our grandparents followed the stars during their voyages in order to build their glories. Today, our children look at them to build their future,” said His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

Sarah Al Amiri, 33, the mission’s deputy project manager and also the UAE Minister of State for Advanced Sciences, said the trip to Mars is “a message of hope for the region, to set an example of what is possible if we take the talent of the youth and use them positively, this is what’s possible.”

“We’ve worked on investing in our space sector for over 15 years... it’s about ensuring that this talent is developed for the rest of the region,” she said.

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