Man first landed on the moon back in 1969. It was such a huge moment for the entire world. Peopled watched the footage on television and listened in on the radio. It was a uniting moment for humanity. Fast forward 52 years and after many trips heading to outer space, a team led by a Muslim woman landed on Mars. The country of the United Arab Emirates was the first Arab country to land on the red planet, making them the fifth country to do so globally.
The mission that was named the Hope probe reached Mars last Tuesday and sent a signal to their ground control team in Dubai.
Celebrations were in full effect after receiving that signal. Sarah bint Yousif Al Amiri was the scientist and driving point behind the success of this mission. She is the leading deputy project manager and the chairperson of UAE’s space agency, Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre. Born in Iran, Al Amiri is one of the youngest ministers to lead a space agency.
Al Amiri got her start in aerospace engineering when she graduated from the American University in Sharjah in 2008 with a Bachlors in Science for Computer Engineering. She went on to work for Dubai’s first two satellites and obtained a Master’s in computer engineering as well in 2014. She set up research and development as the Head of Space Science at Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center.
Impressively, she has worked towards UAE’s goal in developing a “knowledge-based economy.” One of these goals is to create plans to build a human settlement on Mars by 2117. By 2016, she was appointed the head of the Emirates Science Counsel and by October 2017, she became the country’s first Minister of State for Advanced Sciences. As she still continues to hold this honorable position, in August of 2020, she became the chairperson of the UAE Space Agency.
This prestigious resume also includes Al Amiri speaking at the World Economic Forum, as well as being the first citizen of the UAE to speak at an international TED event. BBC’s “100 Women” also covered Al Amiri in a documentary that explores the accomplished women of 2021. She is also refererred to as “Her Excellency” due to her position in the Ministry.
Muslim women have come a very long way since the beginning of time, and even since the first moon landing in 1969. Women of color in general have worked themselves to the bone to achieve greatness, and it is with pride that all Muslim women can have such a role model to look up to. We can now honestly tell ourselves and future generations to “reach for the stars.”