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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 1 March 2021

International leaders and space agencies congratulate UAE on successful Mars mission

Congratulations pour in from around world and within UAE

Space agencies and leaders around the world have congratulated the UAE on the success of its history-making mission to Mars.

The UAE on Tuesday evening became only the fifth nation in the world to successfully send a spacecraft to the Red Planet.

Frayed nerves gave way to jubilation when the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre received the message that its remarkable mission had been accomplished.

Thomas Zurbuchen, Nasa’s science mission chief, tweeted his congratulations. His agency's Perseverance rover is due to land on Mars in just over a week.

“Your bold endeavour to explore the Red Planet will inspire many others to reach for the stars," he said. "We hope to join you at Mars soon."

Nasa also sent a message, quoting one of the Middle East's most loved poets.

"Dear Hope Mars Mission, congratulations on arriving at Mars," the US space agency said.

"In the words of the poet Al Mutanabbi: 'If you ventured in pursuit of glory, don’t be satisfied with less than the stars'."

It was signed: "Nasa's Perseverance Mars Rover".

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “It’s an amazing accomplishment.”

The UK Space Agency congratulated the UAE Space Agency and hailed the success as “excellent news”.

“Over the next few years scientists globally will play a leading role in the international endeavour to explore Mars: from managing logistical operations and building component parts for spacecraft to deciding which samples are to be returned to Earth," said Sue Home, head of space exploration at the agency.

"Missions to Mars will not only bring us one step closer to answering the question that's been on the lips of pop culture, sci-fi and scientists for the last forty years, but will also help us further our understanding of the Earth and its evolution."

The European Space Agency declared the Hope mission a “success.”

And the US mission to the UAE took to Twitter to send its congratulations.

Israel's ambassador to the US and the UN, Gilad Erdan, congratulated "our Emirati friends" on a successful space mission.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi of Egypt congratulated the UAE leadership and people on the successful arrival of the Arab World's first probe to Mars.

"I proudly followed the arrival of the Hope probe to Mars," Mr El Sisi said on Twitter.

"The step is historical and pioneering for the UAE to enter the field of outer space exploration.

"The step constitutes the hope aimed to reinstate the glories and the discoveries by the Arab and Islamic nations in the realms of sciences, arts, and innovation."

Congratulations pour in from within the UAE

The President, Sheikh Khalifa, congratulated the country's citizens and residents on a brilliant new chapter in the UAE's history.

Sheikh Khalifa praised Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, for their roles in the achievement.

"This historic achievement would not have been possible without the persistence and determination to implement the idea that emerged at the end of 2013 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, who followed it up closely until its success," he said.

Sheikh Khalifa said the support of Sheikh Mohamed also proved pivotal.

"Thanks to both leaders and the team of scientists and engineers behind the project for proving to the world that the UAE is capable of achieving the impossible," he said.

Sheikh Mohammed and Sheikh Mohamed personally thanked staff from mission control in Dubai.

"The Hope probe’s historic arrival to Mars is the greatest celebration of the 50th anniversary of our country," Sheikh Mohammed said.

Sheikh Mohamed said the bright young Emiratis who led the mission, including project chief Omran Sharaf, were "part of a generation that makes us proud. You took our honour and our reputation up to Mars.

"The entry of the Hope probe into the orbit of Mars is a significant accomplishment in our nation’s history."

After seven months in space and six years since its inception, Hope defied a 50 per cent risk of failure to enter the Mars orbit.

Other senior figures in the UAE joined the chorus of praise.

"The Hope probe’s historic space journey to Mars is a significant Arab and Emirati achievement," said Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai.

"What has made this mission remarkable is not only the 200 Emiratis that were working on this, it's the 450 people from different continents, backgrounds and beliefs," said Sarah Al Amiri, Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency and Minister of State for Advanced Technology.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, said: "Reaching Mars is a new opportunity for Arabs and Muslims to elevate their global standing, and an Emirati message of hope for the new generation in our Arab world."

One of the UAE's first two astronauts, Sultan Al Neyadi, said: "February 9, 2021, marks a new dawn in the Emirati and Arab space exploration journey.

"Congratulations to our leadership, Emiratis and Arabs on the successful Mars orbit insertion of the Hope probe."

It leaves an imprint in history that reflects the hard work of a nation that is not yet 50 years old

Abdullah Al Nuaimi

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, chief executive of Emirates airline and President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, said: "We congratulate Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre for this incredible accomplishment, guided by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid's inspiring vision to set up the first Arab interplanetary mission."

Abdullah Al Nuaimi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said: "The probe’s success in entering the Martian orbit and commencing its scientific mission is a momentous milestone in the UAE’s journey.

"It leaves an imprint in history that reflects the hard work of a nation that is not yet 50 years old."

The events on Tuesday suggest the UAE’s Mars probe could not have been better named.

Success or failure were always secondary to the mission’s greatest achievement – lifting our heads and showing us the universe.

And its lonely 493.5 million kilometres journey through space was an incredible one.

It blasted off from Japan's Tanegashima Island in July 2020, in the middle of a pandemic, overseen by a skeleton crew and with almost no live spectators.

It survived the initial launch, the jettisoning of rockets and course correction manoeuvres, and maintained contact with mission control in Dubai.

But on Tuesday evening, Emirati engineers faced a nail-biting wait as it made its final approach.

At 7.30pm, it fired its thrusters and used half of its 800 kilograms of fuel to cut its speed from 120,000kph to 18,000kph.

The effect, not that any human saw it, was a spectacular feat of engineering.

An agonising 11 minutes' wait

As a result of the distance between Earth and Mars, engineers in Dubai waited at least 11 minutes for the message confirming thrusters worked.

The six thrusters fired for about 30 minutes in all. During that time, all contact was lost as scheduled when the probe disappeared behind the Red Planet.

Then came the signal: success.

It could have all gone wrong. Due to the complexity involved and the unforgiving nature of space, many previous missions were lost at this point, or much earlier.

To date, more than half of Mars missions have failed. The first from early Soviet attempts to China's Yinghuo-1 in 2011, whether on the launch pad, on approach to Mars, or at points in between.

Ms Al Amiri said the project went through setbacks along the way but were overcome.

"I started working on this programme at the end of 2013 and it's been a series of challenges that we've sometimes thought were unsurmountable," she said.

"We had only six years to design and develop it. The budget we had wasn't very high.

"We went through various times when things broke. We have to fix it in time to get the spacecraft to where we needed it to be.

"What has made this mission remarkable is not only the 200 Emiratis that were working on this, it's the 450 people from different continents, backgrounds and beliefs.

"This was truly an international endeavour and this is what science needs to be. This is what exploration is all about."

At Burj Park in Dubai, officials and media who gathered to watch the orbit on big screens cheered as the mission was hailed a success.

The world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, was lit up throughout the event and displayed the faces of the engineers who worked tirelessly on the mission over the past six years.

A projection of the Hope probe was also shown on its facade, and images of the Red Planet.

UAE's Mars mission - in pictures

Updated: February 11, 2021 12:48 PM

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