Her dream began when Sarah al-Amiri saw a picture of the Andromeda galaxy - as a twelve-year-old girl. She would never have thought that this dream would take her professionally to Mars.
The UAE has been trying to test the boundaries of science and technology for five years. In 2017, the government announced that it was the first country in the world to appoint a Minister for Artificial Intelligence. It aims to drive automated learning and other cutting edge technologies in the Gulf state.
2017 was also the year Sarah al-Amiri was selected for her top job. The young engineer is supposed to lead the country into space - at a time when the countries of the region pay little attention to the vastness of the universe.
"We are a young country that was late in entering the competition by global standards," said al-Amiri in the British science journal Nature earlier this month. "It is natural that people think this is crazy," added the 33-year-old - meaning the one planned for next week Countdown to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) mission to Mars. The country wants to orbit Mars with a spacecraft that launches from Japan.
"Amal" stands for "hope"
Al-Amiri started her career as a computer engineer. She later switched to space technology at the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology. There she worked on the first satellites in her home country. A wish for the heart came true for Sarah al-Amiri.
"As a young girl, at the age of twelve, I saw a picture of the Andromeda galaxy - the galaxy closest to our Milky Way," reported al-Amiri at the TEDx 2017 innovation conference in Dubai. From then on, she devoured everything that had to do with space, because: "I had a dream."
In 2016, the ambitious woman was appointed chair of the Emirates Science Council. The following year, she brought the government into the cabinet. And today she is the deputy project manager and scientific director of the Mars mission, which is called "Amal" - Arabic for "hope".
"The mission is called ‘hope' because we are contributing to the global understanding of our planet," she explains. Your country is leaving the turmoil and political turmoil in the region behind and making a positive contribution to science.
"Science is limitless"
The mission has also changed the social norms in the country. According to Nature, women account for 34 percent of the mission's staff and even 80 percent of the scientific staff. On average, the proportion of working women in the UAE is just 28 percent.
Sarah Al-Amiri hopes that her project will be able to inspire even more young women and men for a future in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. "For me, science is the most international form of collaboration," she explains. "Science is limitless and lives from the passion of individuals for the benefit of all."
But their work is not limited to the space mission. As Minister of State for Science, al-Amiri's role also includes strengthening the bridge between science and the UAE economy.
"When we talk about the economy in the United Arab Emirates in the next 30 years, we are talking about science and technology as the foundation. We want an economic system that is based on knowledge," says al-Amiri. "It's about knowledge about production, about applying knowledge, and about creating intangible assets," said the politician and researcher at the official Emirates News Agency. Because "that's how the most sustainable economies around the world work".