The UAE reaches Mars, leading the Middle East space race: Will anyone catch up in the near future?
The UAE reaches Mars
The UAE has reached the furthest point in space in Arab history as the Hope Probe made its grand entry to the Red Planet yesterday, February 9.
The UAE leaders arrived at the Mars Mission command centre in Dubai to congratulate the team on the historic achievement.
Omran Sharaf, Project Manager of the Emirates Mars Mission, was at the ground control room in Dubai when the team received the first signal from the probe after Mars Orbit Insertion. The official announced the mission success.
“To the people of the United Arab Emirates, to Arab and Muslim nations, we announce that the mission of the UAE to Mars has successfully entered the orbit of the Red Planet. All thanks to Allah, all thanks to Allah, all thanks to Allah,” he says, to applause from the team.
The UAE’s mission to Mars is a major achievement for the Gulf country and comes just seven months after it launched its first interplanetary mission.
Back in July, the Hope spacecraft took off at dawn in Japan and made its way to Mars. It was reported at the time that the concept dated back to 2014 and was intended to inspire a new generation and also celebrate the country’s 50th anniversary. This was a big deal for the UAE, the Gulf and the region. Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE ambassador in the US, praised the effort. He harkened back to the years of hard work and dedication it took.
The UAE is now the fifth country to reach Mars. Both are now major space powers. China and America’s NASA also have spacecraft on the way to Mars this year.
The UAE’s Burj Khalifa, the giant building in Dubai, lit up in celebration when it was announced the mission was successful on Tuesday evening. The team behind the mission have an average age of 27 and is 35% women, CNN reported.
This is certainly a big milestone for the Middle East, as it has set an example that other nations will wish to follow and supersede, possibly leading to a surge in investment into the space sector, and therefore a development of technological know-how.
Turkey announces space program the same day
Interestingly, and in a sign that Turkey seeks to match the UAE’s ambitions, on the same day that the UAE announced its probe reaching Mars, Turkey announced its ambitious space program. Turkey unveiled its national space program, a roadmap based on realistic and competitive goals, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.
“The national space program will carry our country to an upper league in the global space race,” Erdogan stressed during the introductory meeting in the capital Ankara.
Noting that the program was prepared and will be carried out by the Turkish Space Agency (TUA), Erdogan said Turkey is opening the door to the sky journey of its civilization that pioneered justice, morality, and peace in the world for centuries. The program outlines Turkey’s 10-year vision, strategies, objectives, and projects on space policies, he noted.
“The primary and most important mission of the program is to make the first contact with the Moon in our republic’s centennial year ,” Erdogan said.
Noting that the goal will be completed in two stages, Erdogan said that at the first stage, a rough landing would be made on the Moon with a national and authentic hybrid rocket that will be launched into orbit at the end of 2023 through international cooperation.
“When completing this task, we will be one of the countries that have managed to reach the Moon, and we will gather necessary information for the second stage of the mission,” he said.
At the second stage in 2028, the initial launching, which carried our probe to orbit, will be made through Turkey’s own rockets, Erdogan noted, adding: “As we make a soft landing on the Moon, we will be one of the few countries that could conduct scientific activities on it.”
The Moon Program will leverage Turkey’s breakthroughs in launch, rocket, and control technologies, he underlined. Noting that the program’s second goal is to create a trademark on the new-generation satellite development, he said the country would gather satellite production activities under a single authority coordinated by the TUA.
“We plan to gain a higher share from the world satellite market by enhancing our competitiveness thanks to this move,” he explained.
Under its national space program, Turkey aims to set up a regional positioning and timing system, Erdogan noted.
With this regional positioning system, to be created with an innovative method through using satellites along with ground systems, Turkey will end its foreign dependency, he stressed.
“This will pave the way to develop our own precise navigation applications in defense, agriculture, urbanization, and autonomous vehicles,” the president said.
Turkey is planning to establish a spaceport while ensuring access to space, he stressed.
“We should make our national and domestic rockets to carry heavy payloads to the Earth’s orbit,” he underlined.
Noting that Turkey’s geographical location is not convenient for establishing the spaceport, Erdogan said Turkey would cooperate with allied countries in the most suitable areas.
Another goal of the program is to increase its competitiveness in space by investing in space weather, meteorology, Erdogan said. Turkey will boost its efficiency in astronomical observations and follow-up of space objects from the Earth, he noted.
“Thus, we will contribute to recording and tracking of objects in the Earth’s orbit,” he said.
Under the program, Turkey will further develop the economy of its space industry, Erdogan stressed.
“We will carry the success we have achieved in the defense industry to the space area and ensure the formation of a strong and productive ecosystem,” he noted.
A Space Technology Development Region to welcome domestic and foreign investors will be established, the president also said.
Noting that the country will develop effective and competent human resources in the field of space, Erdogan said the “final goal is to send a Turkish citizen to space with a scientific mission.”Set out in the first 100-day action plan unveiled after the Justice and Development (AK) Party’s victory in elections in June, TUA was established in December 2018 with a presidential decree.
As the country develops new technologies such as observation satellites, Turkey will ensure full security of information obtained from satellites through Turkish engineers’ software, Erdogan added.
Egypt and Iran in the background
Meanwhile, it appears that Egypt and Iran have launched themselves into the space race as well.
Egypt is set to be the first country in Africa and the Middle East to have a camera on the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS is a modular space station in low Earth orbit. It’s a collaborative, multinational project involving five participating space agencies: NASA, Russia’s Roscosmos, Japan’s JAXA, Europe’s ESA, and Canada’s CSA.
After winning the competition that was organized by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), the Egyptian Space Agency has arranged to send a camera to the ISS, making it the first camera from the MENA region to get there! The competition involved a six-year program with two stages; first was about selecting the candidates and the second training them to live inside the ISS. So the first stage included testing the candidates’ psychological and mental health capabilities.
The camera is also 100% Egyptian, with 13 local engineers and technicians having worked on it. With the installation of such a device, Egyptians will be able to get high-resolution satellite images that will help astronomers understand and reveal the secrets of our universe.
The head of the Egyptian Space Agency, Mohammed El-Qousi, has stated that his country has ambitious plans to build space systems and infrastructure. Egypt already has five satellites in orbit, and the newcomer will add remote sensing capabilities and scientific research uses. Weighing in at 65 kilograms, the satellite will be launched with the help of German and Chinese partners.
The country also plans to launch two more satellites in 2022, with launch dates pencilled in for March and September. Egypt also plans to open a satellite collection and testing center following the launch of the satellites next year, which would be the first of its kind in the Arab world. Such a site would fall under the auspices of a “space city” dedicated to space research.
Iran has also ramped up its space ambitions, as
tested a new rocket on February 1 intended for sending satellites into orbit. The rocket’s technology could be transferred in to Iran’s controversial nuclear missile program. Analysts see this as Tehran “flexing its muscles” in the face of new United States President Joe Biden.
The rocket, Zuljanah (named after the horse of Mohammed’s grandson), can send satellites 310 miles into orbit. Iran already made history last decade, becoming the ninth country in the world to send objects into outer space.
Despite this, both Iran and Egypt are still far behind sending a space probe to Mars, as the UAE has done. The closest to the UAE in this regard is Turkey, and soon Egypt. One thing is certain however, the UAE, as expected, has set a catalyst that will accelerate the space race in the Middle East, the results of which we can already see.