The National Future Forum: UAE's monumental and risky Mars mission to inspire future generations, says minister

Sara Al Amiri said Government has placed faith in young team at the opening of The National Future Forum

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - May 8th, 2018: Her Excellency Sarah bint Yousif Al Amiri Minister of State for Advanced Sciences at The National's Future Forum. Tuesday, May 8th, 2018 at Cleveland Clinic, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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The UAE's Mission to Mars will not only contribute to scientific knowledge, but also inspire the next generation, says Sarah Al Amiri, the Minister of State with responsibility for advanced sciences.

The minister, one of the youngest in the Cabinet when she was appointed last October, was the opening speaker at The National Future Forum in Abu Dhabi.

Her responsibilities include the 2020 space probe, the first for an Arab country, which she described as “an adventure into the future of science and technology for this nation”.

The project is “a development for the UAE not only to settle Mars, not for the significance contribution that science … but more importantly for what is going to happen here in the UAE, for the development of the UAE.”

Addressing the audience at Manarat Al Saadiyat, Ms Al Amiri said the previous experience of other nations in going to Mars showed there was a huge risk of failure.

“It is such a monumental and challenging project that has a lot of risks and the risk is that only 50 per cent of projects that get to Mars succeed,” she said.

“That is a large risk that the Government is willing to take on, but is also willing to bestow on a group of young, enthusiastic and experienced engineers and experts.”


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The Emirates Mars Mission will send an orbiting probe to Mars in 2020, for examining the planet's atmosphere and looking for evidence of water, sending back "data that science has never had before, that no mission has ever been able to capture," the minister said.

It is being built by a "brilliant" team all below the age of 35, and who had drawn from the experience of previous international Mars missions to cut the development time by half.

It is now barely two years to the planned launch on July 14, 2020, she said.

“This mission is on schedule, there are absolutely no delays so far and we actually see bits and pieces of the spacecraft coming together at a very fast speed.

“Hopefully we are going to have at the launch in Japan towards Mars to reach there at the beginning of 2021, with valuable scientific data being sent out to the public, without any restraints whatsoever, by our 50th anniversary in 2021.

“The future is about the youth and it is about engaging them,” she said.

Speaking of her own passion for science and knowledge, Ms Al Amiri said: “More importantly we all as a nation have a passion for exploration, for continued development, for continuously pushing the boundaries.

“The future is about capitalising on the knowledge of humanity, of further developing on it, of further expanding on it and pushing the boundaries better and in a shorter amount of time.”

“The future is also about being global citizens with an impact within and beyond borders.

“With this wide lens that we are looking at not just the future of the nation of the UAE, but of this world.

In a wide-ranging series of debates, guest speakers also touched on the rise of drones to carry passengers and manage commercial deliveries, the need for affordable housing, and super-fast passenger travel.

Leading Hong Kong architect James Law spoke of the need for "mega architecture" - where thousands of people are compressed to live and work effectively using less resources in a more compressed city.

Neuroscientist Olivier Oullier, president of Emotiv, which develops devices that allow devices to be controlled by the mind with the aid of a headset, spoke of the need to invest low cost devices that can monitor our brain health.

MRI scanners costing millions of dirhams and weighing tonnes are being replaced by headsets that cost less than a games console and can scan the brain for medical problems.

The National's Editor-in-Chief Mina Al Oraibi announced that six young Emiratis will have the chance to join with the organisations as fellows.

They will gain in-depth knowledge and insight into the rapidly changing media industry as they will be invited to seminars given by high-level experts, academics and thought leaders.