UAE may settle humans on Mars earlier than expected: Nasa official

Though Mars is not the closest planet to Earth,

it has a hospitable atmosphere that can support human life

Tuesday, November 23, 2021: A top Nasa official has said that the UAE’s plan to establish the first inhabitable human settlement in Mars by 2117 is not only a realizable goal but can be accomplished sooner than estimated.

In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Dr. Mohamed Abid, chief engineer at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said exploring and setting up life on another planet calls for a step-by-step approach.

During his visit to Canadian University Dubai’s (CUD) International Symposium on Networks, Computers and Communications, he said: “My personal opinion is that this aspiration is entirely realistic. In fact, I would think it could happen sooner than that.

"Setting up life on another planet depends on how quickly they progress through this process. First, you need to understand the atmosphere, landscape and weather — to assess if it is suitable for human life, and what it would ultimately take to survive there.”

He said countries looking to build human settlements on another planet need to strategize on how to send astronauts for extended periods of time, and land a manned craft on the planet.

“They also need to set up the basics to survive – food, water and shelter. The next part would be to launch from Mars and return to Earth. There is still a lot to be done, but it’s a very impressive feat for the UAE to successfully orbit Mars at the very first attempt," Abid said.

Though Mars is not the closest planet to Earth, it has a hospitable atmosphere that can support human life.

"Getting to Mars is not easy and to be successful in this kind of mission requires a combination of resources, desire and mindset. Of course, the physical, financial, and human resources have to exist to take on such an ambitious project,” said Abid, who primarily oversees the return of samples from Mars.

His current pursuit entails exploring the existence of ancient microbial life from the gathered surface samples of the Red Planet after it’s brought back to the Earth.

“This will allow us to understand if ancient life was supported on Mars...and if it's possible to make oxygen from the carbon dioxide in Mars’ atmosphere. Instead of carrying oxygen, we would make it at the site. This can then be used for breathing and for propulsion. After that, we need to be able to transport human beings to and from the planet and to create the right environment for them to survive. This process is still likely to take a while,” said the Nasa engineer, originally from Tunisia.

He said there was a lot of potential among the youth in the Mena region, and the UAE’s investment in knowledge-intensive sectors is proof of this.

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