UAE Mars mission will inspire a new generation to reach for the stars

Landmark undertaking will put career paths such as science and technology in the spotlight

The Hope probe's historic mission to Mars will inspire current and future generations to pursue careers in science, technology, mathematics and engineering, experts said.

The UAE became only the fifth country to reach the Red Planet and only the second to do so in a maiden flight, sparking jubilant scenes on Tuesday evening.

The achievement could be a launch pad for the Arab world to reach even greater heights.

Rohan Roberts, who leads an astronomy programme at Gems Wellington Academy in Al Khail, said he believed the Mars mission would accelerate a burgeoning desire to explore space.

“The youth are so inspired by the Hope probe. It creates a sense of awe and wonder about the universe we live in and fills their minds with optimism,” he told The National.

“It's a nice counterbalance to the doom and gloom narrative of traditional media, where we emphasise the negative, and students are always thinking that the future is dystopian. It gives students excitement and hope for the future.”

A key component of the UAE space programme is to generate interest in space among youth.

Experts from the UAE Space Agency and Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre tour public and private schools, creating interactive workshops, holding space camps, launching competitions and introducing Stem-focused subjects in educational institutions.

A couple of schools launched space or Stem-dedicated programmes, while some universities now have a master’s programme in space sciences, including University of Sharjah and UAE University in Al Ain.

Each has a dedicated space centre for their students.

“We're trying to align the academy with the nation's priority in the fields of scientific innovation, space, technology and space exploration,” Mr Roberts said.

Dr Vajahat Hussain, chief executive of Amity Education Middle East, which has its own satellite ground station for student use, said he believed the UAE’s journey to Mars would guide pupils who were interested in space but were unsure which path to take.

“Tuesday's event will fire the imagination of the youth and of all those young children who are in junior classes at the moment, wondering what they would do with their life,” he said. “It will trigger something in them – they will aspire to be astronauts and space explorers.”

Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Technology and chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, previously said that one of the priorities of the mission was to inspire Arab youth.

Mission director Omran Sharaf told The National that it would help the UAE to find its own Elon Musk or Bill Gates.

“There was a vision and goals we wanted to achieve – based on that the team designed a programme within this mission to create an impact,” Mr Sharaf said.

“The mission was launched in 2014 and, in that timeframe, you see the language of a whole generation and priorities change. Instead of pupils wanting to work in property or the finance sector, they talk about being entrepreneurs and innovators – being the future Elon Musk and Bill Gates of the UAE.”

Updated: February 10, 2021 10:55 PM

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