Emirates News Agency – ‘Life on Mars will be revolutionary, start a whole new line of thinking,’ NASA scientist tells MENA Innovation Technology Transfer Summit

SHARJAH, 28th September, 2020 (WAM) — Why and how can we take humans to Mars? This radical question and other interplanetary space explorations were answered by some of the world’s leading scientists and engineers during the inaugural MENA Innovation Technology Transfer Summit, MITT Summit, organised by the Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park, SRTI Park.

The inaugural MITT Summit shed light on the Mars exploration and other interplanetary space explorations with the participation of the world’s leading scientists and engineers.

Dr. James Green, Chief Scientist at National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, said life on Mars will be revolutionary and will start a whole new line of thinking.

Green noted Mars has water – millions or billions of years ago, and in the present, in underground aquifers and frozen glaciers. Life in Mars could have started there, he said and added that NASA, which will land on the Red Planet in February 2021, may find potential evidence of past life on Mars.

Green, who has been NASA’s chief scientist since 2018, having been with the space agency since 1980 and directed its Planetary Science Division, said during the MITT Summit that is important to study the atmosphere of Mars. “It was a blue planet and maybe now down of its 13 per cent of the amount of water is used to have, it is a wonderful resource to explore the planet.”

Earlier, in a different forum, he said one promising indication of life on Mars is that every summer, the planet gets gassy, with the amount of methane gas present at the surface increasing dramatically. The Curiosity Rover on Mars also detected molecular oxygen, which increases each spring and summer by up to 30 percent before dropping again in the fall. “That tells us life may be underground during the summer the soils heat and therefore loosen up such that the methane can leak out. We have all kinds of circumstantial observations that perhaps Mars has microbial life too,” he explained.

Dr. Douglas Terrier, Chief Technology Officer at NASA, also spoke about his leadership roles at NASA, including the development of spacecraft for NASA’s human exploration programme.

Terrier said NASA revealed this week its latest plan to return astronauts, including the first woman, to the Moon in 2024.

The first flight, Artemis I, is scheduled for launch on November 2021 but will be unmanned. This will be followed by Artemis II in 2023 with astronauts onboard but will not land on the Moon before sending the first woman and the next man on the surface to the South Pole of the Moon in 2024.

Terrier said, “Any exploration will be an international collaborative effort – such as the ISS (International Space Station), where astronauts are deployed in space for a long period. Our next step is to go back to the Moon with the Artemis programme in 2024 for a longer and sustainable stay on the Moon.”

For Omran Sharaf, Project Manager of Emirates Mars Mission, EMM that sent the Hope Probe (the first Arab interplanetary mission to Mars), space exploration is about inspiring the youth.

He noted that Hope Probe, which is expected to reach Mars’ orbit next year in time for the UAE’s golden jubilee means the pride of the nation and the whole region.

Dr. Farouk El-Baz, Director of the Centre for Remote Sensing at Boston University, said he shared the same views as Sharaf that space exploration will benefit and inspire the youth to take space studies.

Dr. Fabienne Casoli, President of the Paris Observatory, meanwhile, shared her experience in the world of administrating research within major French decision-making bodies concerning astronomy and astrophysics.

MITT Summit is a historic marathon online conference that connected Sharjah, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, New York and major players in the world of technology.

Organised by SRTI Park, UAE’s premier research and innovation hub, it brought together global investors, government and private sector representatives, experts, entrepreneurs, academics, and other relevant stakeholders for 14 hours of discussions on how to best shape the future of innovation and promote sustainability.

Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of SRTI Park, expressed delight over hosting MITT Summit.

“MITT Summit is in line with “the vision that anticipates the future” being advocated by His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the UAE Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. The Middle East is becoming the world’s fastest-growing marketplace for business and technology transformation,” Al Mahmoudi underlined.

He noted the MITT Summit has strengthened the position Sharjah and the UAE as centre of innovation and technology transfer in the Middle East Region. It has also instituted STRI Park as an ideal platform for technology development, technology transfer as well as venture creation and venture building.


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