Masdar Institute Addressing UAE Mars Mission Needs with Research, Collaboration, and Innovation

September 21, 2018


Abu Dhabi-UAE: 23 May, 2015  ̶  The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology is ramping up its efforts to support the UAE’s Mars mission and its focus on developing its space technology sector through a number of initiatives that are already underway.

Masdar Institute has set up an internal team of researchers to ensure that its research and academic offerings are ready to help the UAE achieve its goal of sending an unmanned space probe to Mars by 2021.

Masdar Institute is also a member of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center’s science and research team, which is one of seven teams of UAE National scientists that have been established to cover all aspects of the Mars mission. Masdar Institute is one of the seven universities on the Mohammed bin rashid Space Center science and research team, which is tasked with planning science objectives, implementing data gathering resources to meet objectives and complete analysis of incoming scientific data from the mission.

“Masdar Institute is committed to supporting the UAE’s space ambitions and needs. The team we have set up is tasked with ensuring that Masdar Institute is able to support the UAE’s Mars Mission to the fullest, capitalizing on the diverse and high-value expertise of our faculty, our programs, our students and our research infrastructure,” Dr. Mohamed Sassi, Interim Dean of Faculty and Professor of Mechanical and Materials Science at Masdar Institute, explained.

Masdar Institute is actively working towards setting up a sustainable research and training infrastructure in the UAE with the long-term objective of generating the human and intellectual capital that is required to achieve the UAE’s space goals.

It is estimated that 150 Emirati scientists and engineers will be needed to work on the Mars mission by 2020. In response to the growing need for engineers and technical specialists with relevant training in space technologies Masdar Institute is laying the groundwork for the establishment of dedicated graduate level space-oriented education programs to form and train UAE Nationals in fields relevant to the UAE space agency mission. The established programs will foster the development of R&D projects in which graduate students and scientists will be involved to address the UAE’s space goals. In addition, the diverse disciplines of Masdar Institute’s existing educational programs will be applied to other space-oriented research needs.

“Student researchers in the UAE can focus their research efforts towards solving real problems and exploring new research opportunities. Students who will work on answering questions posed by the Mars mission ‘Hope’ will have a sense of ownership, accomplishment and satisfaction by solving real problems and serving real clients,” said Dr. Saif Al Mheiri, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Masdar Institute.

The team members include Dr. Sassi, Dr. Al Mheiri, Dr. Prashanth Marpu, Assistant Professor of Water and Environmental Engineering, Dr. Bruce Ferguson, Head of the Institute Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Dr. Marouane Temimi, Associate Professor of Water and Environmental Engineering, Dr. Hosni Ghedira, Director of the UAE Research Center for Renewable Energy Mapping and Assessment and Professor of Practice, and Dr. Daniel Choi, Associate Professor – Department of Mechanical & Materials Engineering.

To further enrich the UAE’s broader research ecosystem in a way that contributes to the country’s space ambitions, Masdar Institute has also established the UAE Chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (GRSS). It aims to engage in active collaborations with various universities, industry and government agencies in the UAE to foster remote sensing research by bringing together the remote sensing researchers and professionals. The chapter will also provide a platform to organize regular meetings for timely dissemination of research results and outreach.

“The UAE has already invested US$5.4 billion in space technologies; thus, collaboration between the industry and academia warrants a sustainable growth to the Emirati space industry through knowledge creation. The benefits of such collaboration are mutual to both parties. The industry will have access to cutting-edge scientific research and specialized equipment as well as the invaluable experience that researchers bring to the table,” Dr. Al Mheiri said.
Masdar Institute’s Earth Observation and Hydro-climatology Lab has been engaged in a number of research projects that enrich and expand local competency in technical areas of relevance to the Mars mission. Its faculty is working on a diverse range of remote sensing research projects with special focus on desert and arid climate such as urban heat island studies; monitoring oil spills, solar resources, and dust storms; land-atmosphere interactions; modeling of hydro-meteorological variables; and climate change studies.

Masdar Institute will be proposing some new applications of its research to the needs of the Mars mission at the upcoming Global Space and Satellite Forum, to be held in Abu Dhabi on May 26-27. The event is hosted by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre with the endorsement of the UAE Space Agency and aims to will gather key regional and international stakeholders and decision makers from the space and satellite industry.

The UAE entered the space race last July with its announcement of a goal to send an unmanned probe to Mars by 2021, making it the first Arab nation with a mission to another planet. In response to the UAE’s “Hope” Mars Mission, the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center was established, incorporating the pre-existing Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST), to coordinate the UAE’s growing space technology sector and to supervise the mission.