UAE Mars Mission sparks scientific renaissance


13 Feb 2018


Christiane Amanpour

Farouk El Baz

This news-magazine style segment shows some of the parallels between the Apollo missions to the moon in the United States and the United Arab Emirates’ Mars Mission.  Christiane Amanpour narrates (although she does not appear on camera), covering the youth and optimism of both projects, and how a prior generation involved in the US space missions is fostering the same optimism in a similarly exuberant group of scientists in the Middle East.

Farouk El Baz, who was involved in the Apollo missions, touches on how the night sky was used by premodern Arabs.  He discusses how he was sent to the Middle East in the mid 1970s to discuss the missions to the moon in Arabic.  He notes that as he worked in the mission control center in Houston, “I wasn’t really thinking myself as an Egyptian or anything, I was thinking of myself as a human being.  Thinking, wow, humans are going to land on the moon and my God, it’s wonderful that I played a part in that magnificent accomplishment.”

Amanpour contrasts this to the young engineers who are pushing to “design, create and launch a satellite into space”.  A leader among these scientists and engineers is Sarah Al-Amiri, who serves as the face of the Muhammad bin Rashid Space Centre in the UAE.  She discusses the project, to study the Martian atmosphere using a probe named al-Amal, or Hope.

People who appear in the segment:  Farouk El Baz, Director, Center for Remote Sensing, Boston University; Sarah Al Amiri, Science Lead, Emirates Mars Mission; Jörg Matthias Determann, Author, Space Science and the Arab World.

This segment is part one/two/three of three on the Mars Mission in the United Arab Emirates from the series Inside the Middle East.  It was created b Inside the Middle East.  It was created by CNN in association with the Misk Foundation, and originally aired February 13, 2018.


Islam:  There is little here about Islam, but it is within the bounds of what Muslims have historically understood as acceptable.

Science:  The scientific discussion here is accepted by contemporary scientists.

History:  The historical presentation reflects contemporary understanding of the people and events involved.