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Mon 7 Sep 2020 02:37 PM

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Meet the scientist who is key to the UAE's Mars 2117 project

Dr Dimitra Atri's research into radiation will support the UAE's ambitious 2117 Mars project

Meet the scientist who is key to the UAE's Mars 2117 project

A new research finding on radiation will support the UAE's ambitious project to build the first human settlement on Mars by 2117, a scientist has revealed.

"Radiation is one of the biggest roadblocks in planning long-term space missions, especially the project to establish a human presence on Mars [UAE’s Mars 2117 project]," said Dr Dimitra Atri, Research Scientist at Centre for Space Science in the New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD).

In an interview with state news agency WAM, he said he has made important findings from his research on the impact of radiation on astronaut health in long-term space missions.

His team has been able to calculate the amount of radiation dose deposited in different organs of the human body from astrophysical sources very precisely.

"We found that radiation exposure to astronauts is comparable to the dose that cancer patients receive during radiation treatment," he told WAM.

"By comparing our calculations with radiation therapy data we have been able to estimate health risks to astronauts from background radiation in space," Atri said.

"Equipped with this knowledge, we will be in a better position to develop technologies to mitigate the impact of radiation and help with UAE's efforts to establish a human base on Mars. We will be publishing our findings very shortly and share our results with the scientific community in the UAE and abroad," he explained.

The UAE’s Mars 2117 project includes putting in place a programme to prepare Emiratis for Mars and space exploration. The project aims to build the first city on Mars in 100 years.

The project will be associated with research themes involved in the exploration of faster transportation systems to Mars, as well as building houses and producing energy and food. It will also try to find faster transportation methods for travelling to and from Mars.

Previously, a senior scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), said that the UAE's plan to build the first human settlement on Mars by 2117 would be possible.

"I think we'll get there," said Dr Lori Glaze, planetary science division director at NASA, adding: "I would say that having multiple countries now [on Mars exploration] has increased our capability [globally] of going back and forth to Mars."

Atri said that a planned space biology laboratory at the Centre for Space Science at NYUAD will support the UAE's research aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The UAE has a prominent human spaceflight programme and its next step is to carry out scientific experiments on board the International Space Station, he added.

The NYUAD Centre will also use data from Hope Probe, the UAE’s historic mission to Mars, he said.

"We will combine data from Hope Probe with NASA's Curiosity rover data, which is based at the Gale crater on Mars to understand how radiation propagates all the way down to the surface of the planet. This will help us better understand the radiation environment on the surface of Mars in case of extreme events which will be very useful in planning human missions on Mars," Atri added.

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