See you on the red planet – hopefully you too


The Sheikh was satisfied: A young Emirati on the way to the big Mars party in Dubai
Image: Getty

China and the Emirates have both brought their first Mars probes to their destination. The Americans will land their new rover next week. A look at three very different styles of being a space nation.

ADifferent countries, different customs. This also seems to apply to the behavior of aerospace engineers who have just succeeded in a critical maneuver. No wild hugging of the bystanders was to be expected in the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center in Dubai when the signal arrived last Tuesday evening, which reported the successful swinging of the probe “Al-Amal” (hope) into orbit around Mars. The same was forbidden here not only for Corona reasons, but also because a good third of the workforce was female. Even in this special moment for the nation, an indiscriminate heart among colleagues was nothing that would have been considered appropriate in the Gulf state – even if the responsible ministry is headed by a 34-year-old computer scientist.

Ulf von Rauchhaupt

Responsible for the “Science” section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

Instead, there was applause and then reverently the words of His Highness Sheikh Muhammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who had hurried into the control room. The ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the United Arab Emirates ordered this first mission from an Islamic country to the Red Planet six years ago to mark the 50th anniversary of the merger of the Emirates in 1971. With a view to a post-oil era, he wants to introduce his country as a future technology nation. Even if the full functionality of the probe will only prove to be in the next few days, weeks and months, the sign is set – and that was also celebrated on Tuesday: A monumental laser show with Martian themes spilled over the facade of the super skyscraper Burj Khalifa in the center of Dubai, and the English-language state broadcaster “Dubai One” accompanied the arrival of the probe with a two-hour live show. After all: after Russians, Americans, Europeans and Indians, the Emiratis are now the fifth power to have succeeded in bringing a probe into Mars orbit.

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