Have Hope, will travel: UAE Mars team has 6 years to reach goal
DUBAI // With only six years left to complete the Mars mission, the team of young Emiratis at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre have to be as efficient as possible.
Seven teams will cover all aspects of the mission, including the probe’s design and development, supervising the design according to international standards and choosing the place of launch.
Other aspects are managing the mission’s operations, communications between Mars and Earth and supervising knowledge-sharing and transfer in the UAE.
“Earth and Mars align their orbits once every two years so we have a very short launch window,” said Omran Sharaf, the mission’s project manager. “The timeframe is a big challenge for us but we cannot waste time, we have to be ready by then. There will be no second chance.”
Preliminary design work is expected to be finished halfway through next year before the team starts building and testing the spacecraft, due to be completed before the end of 2019.
“Getting to Mars is a big challenge which requires a lot of good planning and calculative risks,” said Sarah Amiri, the mission’s deputy project manager and science lead.
“But being part of that scientific community that starts posing those mission questions is a great place to be, because you’re exposed to a lot of people that are pioneers in that area and provide a lot of insights into the benefits of setting sciences as pure sciences and not only as applied sciences, which engineering is.”
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Ms Amiri, a 28-year-old computer science graduate, is now trying to find the right people for the science team.
“From time to time it will aid in the development of the mission and work towards generating research once the data becomes available,” she said.
“So we have a continuous mission that we’re not only developing, we’re also generating science and answering some of the science questions about utilising the Emirates Mars mission.”
A representative from each of six universities, including the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, New York University Abu Dhabi and the American University of Sharjah, will be on the team.
Places on the team are expected to be filled in a few months.
“The mission will help us model Earth’s atmosphere and how it will evolve with time over millions of years, and to analyse newly discovered planets to be able to determine if there is life on them,” Ms Amiri said.
“This is an investment in the future of the UAE, in diversifying our economy, in being creators and generators of technology rather than just users, and that’s the only way that we can move closer towards our knowledge-based economy and generate the necessary knowledge to sustain that economy.
“Space has always been fascinating because it’s pretty vast and a very humbling place, the dynamics are such an intriguing system that it’s beyond the scope of what the human mind can understand.”
The space industry is estimated to be worth about US$300 billion (Dh1.1 trillion) globally, growing by about 8 per cent a year.
Updated: May 6, 2015 04:00 AM