The University of Southampton

Distinguished Southampton graduate shares vision as 'Hope Probe' reaches red planet's orbit

Published: 10 February 2021
Southampton ORC alumnus Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi

Optoelectronics Research Centre alumnus Dr Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi says he hopes that the historic achievements of the Emirates Mars Mission can inspire more positive change in the region.

The Director General of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Space Agency, who completed an MSc and PhD in Southampton, has spoken after the 'Hope Probe' reached the planet's orbit to capture a first complete picture of the Martian atmosphere.

The fully autonomous spacecraft was launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre, Japan, in July 2020 and will now spend a Martian year gathering data to help answer key questions about the atmosphere and its layers.

Dr Al Ahbabi says: "The UAE project to explore Mars has gone through great challenges, seven years ago, and the last of these challenges was the Corona pandemic, the conditions for transporting the probe to Japan, and then the launch of the probe to Mars, which were not easy circumstances.

"However, the people of the Emirates, with the support of the wise leadership, were able to overcome all these challenges and to achieve the impossible and make positive change happen in the region."

The Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) is one of the world's leading institutes for photonics research, based in the Zepler Institute for Photonics and Nanoelectronics, at the University of Southampton.

Dr Al Ahbabi graduated with a distinction from his MSc in Optical Fibre Communications in 2001, before achieving his PhD in Optical Technology - Distributed Sensing in 2005. He recently reflected on Southampton's 'amazing culture and strong sense of community' and shared how the experience prepared him for his future career in an alumni profile.

Professor Sir David Payne, Director of the Zepler Institute for Photonics and Nanoelectronics, says: "Of the hundreds of ORC alumni in key positions all over the world, Dr Al Ahbabi is one of the most distinguished. His leadership and accomplishments are simply outstanding. It makes us so proud to have played a part in his extraordinary career."

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