CAIRO-The United Arab Emirates on Monday celebrated the launch of its Mars orbiter as an ambitious and pioneering breakthrough for the Arab world.

Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries launched a rocket carrying the Hope probe-known as Amal in Arabic-from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture in southwestern Japan.

The 1.5-ton probe, which measures 2.9 meters in length and 2.37 meters in width, was developed at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai.

It is expected to reach orbit around Mars in 2021 to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE.

The mission is also the first of its kind by a Middle Eastern country.

Its success immediately triggered vast jubilation across the UAE. The orbiter was launched at 1:58 am local time in the UAE, but many citizens were still watching the live broadcast of the launch through TV and the internet, witnessing their dream come true.

President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan said the launch of the Hope probe on its “historic” journey to Mars, under the theme “Nothing is impossible”, constitutes a national and Arab achievement and an advanced Emirati push in the process of building global knowledge in space.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai, said the UAE has created history with an unprecedented Arab space achievement.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, said the UAE has strengthened its position as a country that “creates future and embraces hope”.

Knowledge-based society

In an online news conference, project manager Omran Sharaf said the probe’s broader objective was aimed at developing the country’s space sector so that more investment could be garnered for a knowledge-based economy that was less dependent on oil.

Sara Musallam, chairman of Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, commended UAE leadership on this mission and said education is in place to nurture the next generation of homegrown space adventurers.

“In celebrating the success, we remain committed to ensuring the country’s future generations are equipped with the core skills and learning competencies required to keep driving our nation’s ambitions higher,” Musallam said.

Hussein al-Shafei, adviser to the Russian Space Agency and head of the Egyptian-Russian Foundation for Culture and Science, praised the launch as a very ambitious program and a real step forward for space exploration.

“The UAE is a pioneering country in the field of space,” he said. “Our Arab world really suffers a shortage in the number of space specialists, but the UAE space program will be a window and new hope for the young generation with desires to learn about space.”

He stressed the program will be a great incentive for young Arab scientists who want to take space exploration as a real career to develop the Arab world.

“This Mars mission of the UAE is a remarkable change in the space exploration industry that has been dominated by big world powers,” he added.

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