The Emirates Mars Mission has been honoured at a prestigious awards ceremony for its history-making journey to the Red Planet.
The fate of the Hope probe had a nation holding its collective breath before joyous scenes were sparked when it was confirmed it had reached Mars orbit on February 9.
The successful Mars project – a first for the Arab world and only the fifth by a space agency – also made an impact around the world.
Emirates Mars Mission received the Sir Arthur Clarke Award from the British Interplanetary Society and the Arthur C Clarke Foundation, which recognises remarkable achievements in space.
The awards are named after science fiction writer and futurist Clarke, renowned for co-writing the screenplay for the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Mansoor Abulhoul, the UAE's ambassador to the UK, accepted the award during a special ceremony held at the British Interplanetary Society’s Reinventing Space Conference Dinner in Westminster this week.
“The Emirates Mars Mission is a significant achievement for our young nation, and our partners around the world, having successfully sparked innovation across space science, exploration and research,” Mr Abulhoul said.
“Marking the 50th anniversary of our nation, the mission is indicative of the leaps and bounds we have made in developing our research and innovation capacities, and how we have developed a culture with pioneering youth and risk-taking at its core. We’re incredibly proud of the entire team that made this possible.”
Hope probe enhances our understanding of Mars
Since reaching Mars orbit on February 9, the Hope probe has been capturing data on the planet’s upper and lower atmospheres.
On Wednesday, groundbreaking images of the night-time aurora taken by the probe were released.
The spacecraft will spend two years in Mars orbit to help scientists around the world better understand why the planet lost its atmosphere and is unable to sustain life.
Omran Sharaf, project director of the mission, said it was “a great honour” to receive the award from the UK space community.
“With the first set of data expected to be released in October, Hope will provide us with a full picture of the planet’s climate for the first time, which has previously been mostly unknown.
“This is not just an exciting moment in history for space scientists globally, who will be able to analyse the data, but for the Emirates too, as we progress our nation’s ambition to become a knowledge-based economy with a commercial space sector at its core.”
Years of hard work is rewarded
The Emirates Mars Mission was launched in 2014 and was given a tight budget of nearly Dh735 million ($200m) – one of the lowest costs for an interplanetary mission.
More than 100 Emirati engineers worked on the mission for six years, alongside three US universities.
The British Interplanetary Society (BIS) presented the award to Mr Abulhoul.
“The International Space Achievement award celebrates progress in important international aspects of space activity,” the society said.
“The BIS, and our partners at the Arthur C Clarke Foundation, recognise Omran [and the Emirates Mars Mission team for their historic accomplishment in sending a deep space probe to Mars, and the Emirates’ commitment to advancing science, technology, and education through international collaboration.”