A senior Nasa scientist has heralded the UAE's landmark Mars mission as a crucial step towards fulfilling long-held ambitions to inhabit the Red Planet.
Dr Lori Glaze, planetary science division director at the American space agency, said the findings of the Hope probe's exploration of Mars will be key to humans eventually setting foot on its surface.
The UAE's latest journey to space, which is due to launch at 12.43am (UAE time) on Friday from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan, is central to its wider project to form the first human settlement on Mars by 2117.
The senior scientist shared her confidence in the nation's space programme during an online meeting organised by the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi.
"I think we'll get there," said Dr Glaze of plans for humans to land on Mars.
"I would say that having multiple countries now [on Mars exploration] has increased our capability [globally] of going back and forth to Mars."
Dr Glaze, however, conceded there is a long journey ahead for the international community.
"It is very important that we take a methodical approach where we make sure we take each step at a time," she said.
Missions such as that being undertaken by the UAE will provide scientists with valuable data to enable a greater understanding of Mars and the challenges space agencies face in putting astronauts on the planet for the first time.
"We need to be able to land those heavy spacecraft on Mars and then we need to be able to launch it off of the surface of Mars. This has never been done before," Dr Glaze said.
"We need to be able to demonstrate in-orbit rendezvous at Mars ... that once we've launched from the surface to then rendezvous with another spacecraft and then be able to get out of orbit and come back to Earth.
"So, all of these things need to be demonstrated even before we send the first human to Mars.
"I think we need to have realistic expectation and take it one step at a time and keep moving to that next step and that next level of capability so that we can eventually realise that dream."
The Emirates Mars Mission will study the atmosphere on the planet, complementing work being carried out by counterparts in America.
"We [Nasa] are also taking information on how the atmosphere is lost to space. This is very important information for helping us to understand how the atmosphere of Mars has changed and evolved over time," Dr Glaze said.
"So I think that combining the information from Nasa’s Maven [Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution] mission and the UAE’s Hope probe will help further our understanding of how that atmosphere is currently being lost to space, but also provide us new insight into how it has changed over time, how it has been lost over time. So it will be a major contributor to that science question as well."
The Maven spacecraft reached the orbit around Mars in 2014 and is still studying the red planet’s upper atmosphere.
Dr Glaze will be joining two scientists from the UAE Space Agency at an online meeting to discuss the Hope probe launch. The event, hosted by the US Embassy in collaboration with Nasa and the UAE Space Agency, will take place on Tuesday at 4pm.
To register for the online event, visit this link.