Well, it would make the uae the fifth country to reach mars orbit after the u.s, the soviet union, europe and india, so it must be a very exciting time for the woman heading, the effort. Well, that is her excellency sarah al amiri and i’m very pleased to say she joins me now not quite from mars, but from dubai. Sarah very good morning to you, what’s, the very latest, please good morning, ian uh, but currently the team is observing the spacecraft. The spacecraft looks very good exactly where we want it to be to start its operation to get into orbit around mars we’re a few hours away from this orbit from this sequence, starting, we will turn on our thrusters for the longest time. We’Ve ever turned it on. This is a purpose built mission and therefore we will go into orbit by burning half of the fuel and that will take about 27 minutes of of using our thrusters as our braking system to significantly reduce our speed from about 121 000 kilometers an hour relative to Mars all the way down to 18 000 kilometers an hour, and we start entering orbit um at an altitude of about 2 300 kilometers from the surface of mars. That all is the 27 minutes where we have absolutely no control over the spacecraft and we hope to come on the other side of this on orbit around mars. Being the fifth nation that gets to mars and hopefully starting our scientific mission, it is very exciting isn’t.

It i mean fewer than half of the spacecraft ever sent to mars have made it i mean. Have you ever had any doubts in your mind that you could achieve this, so this has been a severely rehearsed and tested to the brink of our capabilities. To test. See the sequence uh: we are comfortable with the level of operation of the spacecraft. We’Ve been operating it for about six months now, well, over six months, actually we’re comfortable with our understanding of how the spacecraft responds to space, um and it’s. With this that we enter into this final phase and probably the most difficult phase of this mission, uh prior to starting the science of the mission, but as comfortable as you can get at the end of the day, the odds are the odds. 50 of these missions are able to get into orbit. This is the first time that we use this system and we’re just we’re just looking forward to um being at the other side of of this anticipation. Uh it’s been a true challenge, but it’s been a true learning experience for the 200 engineers, researchers and practitioners who have been part of this mission, and what is the kind of data that you plan to collect so we’re, going to be uh, the first weather weather Satellite of mars, therefore, capturing characterizing, the weather system of mars through an entire year different from other missions who have covered it during different times of the day, we’re going to comprehensively cover all times of the day across all of mars.

And that will allow us to also understand what roles, what role martin’s weather system plays in atmospheric loss so say if there’s, a dust storm on mars and the storms of mars usually cover the entire planet uh. How much impact does do those dust storms have on loss of hydrogen oxygen? Therefore client loss of the atmosphere? These are some of the studies that we’re looking into investigating with this mission, and, crucially, though, you won’t be landing on mars itself, which uh nasa are sending up their rover called perseverance right now that that’s actually going on to the planet surface. Why aren’t you doing that, so our science requires us to map the whole planet’s weather system and it’s best to do that, while you’re in orbit around mars – and we do fly at quite a unique orbit around the planets it’s a highly elliptical one. At our closest point, where twenty thousand kilometers from the surface of mars at the furthest point for forty three thousand kilometers mars, usually your science questions and objectives drive these missions. If you would like to comprehensively cover the planet, then orbiting is the way to do that. If you want to to study a particular area of interest, then using a rover or a lander is the way to go, and, crucially, you will be making all the data that you collect publicly available to anyone who wants to see it from september this year. Absolutely this data needs to be available to all scientists around the world.

Our science team doesn’t get a hold of this data prior to any scientists working on any other tangential area of research, and this has been fundamental and foundational in our design of this mission. Now one of your objectives with this mission also was to get more students in the uae more interested in the stem subjects, science and maths and so forth. Have you succeeded in that absolutely just today, as we are speaking right now, all schools within the emirates, both private and public schools, are taking a lesson on mars. We are seeing more and more students excited today morning. My daughter pulled up a space book and explained to me how we can send humans to space and and how rockets are built. So this is infiltrating every single household. Everyone is very excited about this and it’s. Given us a common understanding on the importance of science, not only from the perspective of everybody needing to study science, diversity is always important in terms of fields, but from the perspective of ensuring that there is an understanding of science and an appreciation of the role that It plays in society now assuming you’re successful with this mission. What would the next objectives be for the emirates space programme? The space program has always been about diversifying the economy and establishing sectors, especially industries that are deeply rooted in technology. Our next step is to take a lot of this knowledge that has been acquired over an experience that has been acquired over the course of the last 15 years and start spinning out.

Companies uh that are able to tap into the private sector of space, especially with a lower access to um to space. And what would you say to people who might say well, hang on there’s an awful lot of problems down here on planet earth right now? Most of the planets in the grip of a horrible uh pandemic shouldn’t, we be focusing resources on sorting that out before we start looking at uh, exploring other planets, so there’s, multiple ways of us driving science forward and as we’ve learned from the pandemic, ensuring that you Have a solid base for science in every single area, even not at a time of crisis, allows you to help for utilizing science at the time of crises. Any science based amongst any nation needs to be diverse in nature. You need to enter into various fields, because the beauty of scientific discovery is you, don’t know where you’re going to use it until it’s utilized, and if we continue thinking down the line of, we still have problems on earth. Then we wouldn’t have, for example, mri machines which were driven by the space industry and by the space sector and by exploration of outer space, and that today is a vital part of diagnosis. Uh for for all of humanity within hospitals. Science does not have an application sciences about discovery and exploration, and after that is when the application comes. Once we have an understanding of of the unknown that we’re trying to discover okay and uh, just to reiterate uh sarah, there is still a lot that could go wrong at this late stage: isn’t there.

Yes, this is, if i take the last six years of deve of development, all the way up to launch and all the way through cruise. All the challenges that has, or that has that we’ve encountered throughout the last uh six years, equals to the 27 minutes that we’re going to witness today to enter into orbit around mars. We completely understand these challenges. We’Ve designed these missions to circumvent these challenges.

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