U.A.E. Sets Its Sights on Mars With Launch of Hope Orbiter


As a lady rising up in Abu Dhabi, one of the United Arab Emirates, Sarah al-Amiri checked out an astronomy ebook with of Andromeda, the enormous galaxy neighboring our Milky Way.

“I can’t describe it,” Ms. al-Amiri stated in an interview, “but just to realize that something that was printed on a page was larger than anything that I’ve ever seen and dwarfs the planet that I live on.”

When she was in school, there have been few alternatives within the Middle East to pursue research of the universe, and Ms. al-Amiri majored in pc science as a substitute. But now, the U.A.E. is aiming to encourage its youth to pursue science and know-how careers, and Ms. al-Amiri has solid a profession pursuing the heavens.

Just 33 years outdated, she is the pinnacle of science operations and the deputy venture supervisor for an area probe that the U.A.E. is about to ship to Mars.

A rocket lifting a spacecraft referred to as Hope is to start its journey to Mars quickly. Because of dangerous climate on the launchpad, liftoff won’t happen till no less than subsequent week.

Preparations for Hope, the smallest of the bunch, proceeded smoothly, and it was the first to be ready for liftoff.

“It’s about starting getting the ball rolling,” Mr. Sharaf said, “and creating that disruptive change, and changing the mind-set.”

She saw a job posting at what is now known as the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in Dubai. She joined in 2009, working as an engineer on the satellite programs. When that assignment wrapped up in 2014, she moved on to her current roles on the Hope mission.

She now also serves as the country’s minister of state for advanced sciences and chairs an advisory council of scientists.

If the U.A.E. had tried to train planetary scientists from scratch to work on Hope, the mission would have been long over before the scientists were ready. Instead, Emirati officials took a quicker approach: converting some of the space center’s engineers into scientists by offering apprentice-like training with researchers in the United States.

“I was put there to develop scientific talents within the organization and be able to transfer knowledge in a nontraditional way,” Ms. al-Amiri said.

The coronavirus outbreak tossed in more challenges.

Once construction of the spacecraft was complete in Colorado, a large Ukrainian transport plane ferried it to Dubai, where it was to undergo a round of testing before heading to the launchpad in Japan.

But at the end of February — not long before the European Space Agency and Russia postponed the launch of the Rosalind Franklin mission in part because of the logistical hurdles created by the pandemic — Mr. Sharaf and Ms. al-Amiri realized the outbreak could disrupt their carefully planned schedules if airports were shut down.

“Based on that, we started working on a plan to get the team across to Japan as soon as possible,” Ms. al-Amiri said.

They shuffled some of the tests in order to hurry the spacecraft to Japan, three weeks earlier than originally planned, and where some of the testing would instead be completed.

Travel restrictions meant team members could not travel back and forth. A small team went ahead in early April to wait out a quarantine. Two weeks later, the cargo plane with Hope flew to Japan with another small team from the Emirates.

In Japan, the people who flew with Hope then went into quarantine and then those who had gone ahead joined the spacecraft on the barge trip to the island that is home to the launch site.

Mr. Sharaf and Ms. al-Amiri said the mission was now ready, and the nation’s space program would continue regardless of the outcome.

“The Emirates fully understand the risk associated with this mission,” Mr. Sharaf said. “So does the team. Let’s be honest. Fifty percent of the missions that have been to Mars have failed.”

The greatest success is the training of the people, he said.

“For the Emirates, it’s more about the journey,” Mr. Sharaf said. “It’s more about the impact. Reaching there is one of the goals. But that doesn’t mean that the mission has failed, if we didn’t manage to get there. So failure is an option.”



Source link Nytimes.com

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