With media help, UAE Mars mission hopes to go ‘beyond science’

The UAE’s Mars mission involves sending a space probe on a 60-million-kilometer journey

Ismaeel Naar

Published: Updated:

The United Arab Emirates hopes to reach Mars by the year 2020 but the ultimate goal is not simply reaching the red planet but to further invest in science and the youth of the region, representatives of the mission said on Wednesday.

The UAE’s Mars mission is expected to launch in July 2020. It will involve sending a space probe on a 60-million-kilometer journey and arriving at the red planet by 2021 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE.

“Earth and Mars align their orbits once every two years, so we have a very short launch window in July 2020. We have to be ready by then. There will be no second chances,” Omran Sharaf, the mission’s project manager, said.

The aim will be to collect data about the atmosphere and climate on Mars, and study how the lower and upper layers of the atmosphere interact with each other.

But the bigger picture the mission hopes to achieve is an increased investment in the youth of the Arab and Muslim world. He said that science used to be the forte of the region its role have only slipped over the years with the rise of western powers and civilizations.

“The Arab world has at least 200 million youth in its population. We already have many of us studying and working as engineers. But scientists don’t have the space to explore and flourish. This is why His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid established the Hope Mars Mission. The hope here is that younger generations will have a space and future to add to global contributions to science and the betterment of human life,” Sharaf said.

All this, the project manager said, wouldn’t be possible with the help of the Arabic press and media.

“Our mission at the end of the day is greater than simply reaching Mars. And us scientists speak too much in technical terms that the average Emirati and Arab wouldn’t understand. That’s why we need the media to act as the medium between us and the people,” he told Al Arabiya English.

On the choice of name for the mission, Saeed al-Gergawi, a researcher at the Mohammad bin Rashid Space Centre, told Al Arabiya English that the idea was to place the Arab youth at the forefront of the mission.

“A lot of the region isn’t doing well, and we wanted to give the 200 million youth who are in the region the hope to invest in science and technology, and venture into the stars,” said Gergawi.