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UAE mission to build city on Mars possible: NASA scientist

Khaleej Times 2020-07-13 20:47:53

The UAE's ambitious project to build the first human settlement on Mars by 2117 is "possible", a senior scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has said. To achieve the goal, a methodical approach will have to be adopted as the country collaborates with other major international space institutions, she said

"I think we'll get there," said Dr Lori Glaze, planetary science division director at NASA, in a virtual meeting organised by the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

The NASA scientist added: "I would say that having multiple countries now [on Mars exploration] has increased our capability [globally] of going back and forth to Mars."

However, Dr Glaze clarified that "there's a lot of work ahead before we are ready to really send humans to Mars".

"I think it is very important that we take a methodical approach where we make sure we take each step at a time".

The first step in that direction will be to return samples from Mars to demonstrate that humans can go there and actually come back, the scientist explained. Then, the team will have to prove that a heavier spacecraft could be sent to Mars and bring people back to Earth. 

"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 pointed out.

"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."

All these things will have to be demonstrated before the first human is sent to the Red Planet, she said.

"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 scientist said.

Complementing US mission

The UAE's Mars Mission will complement the US Mars mission's ongoing effort to find answer to an important science question, which will help better understand the Earth, Dr Glaze said.

"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," she explained.

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft reached the orbit around Mars in 2014 and is still studying the Red Planet's upper atmosphere.

"We know that Mars at one time in the past had a much denser atmosphere. It was warmer and wetter on the surface of Mars. And MAVEN is also taking some similar types of measurements [as Hope Probe will do], looking at how the atmosphere escapes," Dr Glaze said.

Omran Sharaf, project manager of Emirates Mars Mission, earlier said that Hope probe will have the first holistic view of the Martian atmosphere at different times of the day and various seasons.

Commenting on that, the NASA scientist said that Hope's view of Mars would give valuable inputs to the existing models built over time.

"This [the Hope Probe] can give tremendous new contribution to those models to make them better and more accurate, and being able to predict what that weather or what the climate looks like on Mars," she said.