Countdown begins for UAE's Mars Mission: Hope spacecraft is fuelled up

Agencies
July 2,2020

With the launch of the Emirates Mars Mission less than a couple of weeks away, the spacecraft that will carry the UAE's Hope Probe to outer space has already been fuelled, it was announced today.

At a virtual briefing by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) today, the media was informed that scientists are busy giving finishing touches to the Hope Mars Mission, which will give mankind a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere once the UAE's indigenous probe reaches the Red Planet's orbit in 2021.

As the monitoring continues, final charging of the batteries is also ongoing, scientists said.

The space engineers averred that with this mission, the momentum in the region for space awareness will continue not only among young Emiratis but also among other youngsters in the Arab world.

The Hope Probe is scheduled to take off from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre on July 15 at 00:51:27 UAE time.

The first Arab space mission to the Red Planet remained on track despite the challenges arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The spacecraft will provide the first global pictures of the Martian atmosphere and data will be shared freely with over 200 research centres across the world. It will help answer key questions about the global Martian atmosphere and the loss of hydrogen and oxygen gases into space over the span of one Martian year.

450 engineers, technicians and experts are involved in the project.  This comprises of 12,000 tasks in 6 years and entails 5.5 million working hours.

It includes 200 new technologies and 15 scientific partnerships with global universities and institutions.

The spaceship will travel 495 million km. It has a cruise speed of 121,000km/hour.

MBRSC is responsible for the execution and supervision of all stages of the design, development and launch of the Hope Probe. The UAE Space Agency is funding and supervising procedures and necessary details for the implementation of this project. After its launch in mid-July and following a journey of several months, the probe is expected to enter the Red Planet's orbit in 2021, coinciding with the Golden Jubilee of the Union.

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Saudi Arabia's King Salman in hospital for medical tests

Agencies
July 20,2020

Riyadh, Jul 20: Saudi Arabia's King Salman has been admitted to a hospital in the capital, Riyadh, for medical tests due to inflammation of the gallbladder, the kingdom's Royal Court said Monday in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The statement said the 84-year-old monarch is being tested at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital. The brief statement did not provide further details.

King Salman has been in power since January 2015. He is considered the last Saudi monarch of his generation of brothers who have held power since the death of their father and founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz.

King Salman has empowered his 34-year-old son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as his successor. The crown prince's assertive and bold style of leadership, as well as his consolidation of power and sidelining of potential rivals, has been controversial.

With the support of his father, Prince Mohammed has transformed the kingdom in recent years, opening it up to tourists and eroding decades of ultraconservative restrictions on entertainment and women's rights as he tries to diversify the Saudi economy away from reliance on oil exports.

The prince has also detained dozens of activists and critics, overseen a devastating war in Yemen, and rounded up top members of the royal family in his quest for power.

The Saudi king has not been seen in public in recent months due to social distancing guidelines and concerns over the spread of the coronavirus inside the kingdom, which has one of the largest outbreaks in the Middle East.

He has been shown, however, in state-run media images attending virtual meetings with his Cabinet and held calls with world leaders.

King Salman, who oversees Islam's holiest sites in Makkah and Medinah, was a crown prince under King Abdullah and served as defense minister. For more than 50 years prior to that, he was governor of Riyadh, overseeing its evolution from a barren city to a teeming capital.

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Makkah welcomes domestic Hajj pilgrims amidst pandemic

Agencies
July 26,2020

Jeddah, Jul 26: The city of Makkah is opening its arms again to welcome pilgrims for the annual Hajj — although only a handful compared with previous years.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event is limited to about 1,000 pilgrims, all from inside Saudi Arabia, about 700 of whom are expatriates.

Abdullah Al-Kathiri, an Emirati and a recovered COVID-19 patient, postponed his pilgrimage last year because it coincided with his wedding plans. “I’ve heard from many who’ve performed the pilgrimage in past years that it was always a smooth process, even with the massive numbers,” he said. “So you could imagine how it would be with the limited number of pilgrims this year. Surely it will be a great experience.”

Khadija, a Bulgarian expatriate, was overcome with tears when she heard she would be performing Hajj this year. “I didn’t expect they’d accept,” she said. “I’m sure this year’s Hajj will be an exceptional one in all respects.”

Dr. Haifa Yousef Hamdoon, a Tunisian physician in Qassim, is another who did not expect to be accepted because of the low numbers this year. “When I received confirmation of my request, I was overjoyed and couldn’t believe it,” she said.

Mu’taz Mohamed, a Sudanese pilgrim who also lives in Qassim region, praised the preventive and precautionary health measures taken in order to ensure his safety and that of other pilgrims, to enable them to perform the rituals safely.

After completing their arrival procedures, the pilgrims were taken to their accommodation in Makkah, supervised by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. They will stay there for four days before beginning their pilgrimage on July 30.

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Abu Dhabi's ADC Bank likely to lay off hundreds of employees

Agencies
July 28,2020

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Dubai, Jul 28: Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) (ADCB.AD) is letting go hundreds of employees, sources said, the latest in a round of lay-offs by regional banks as pressure mounts to cut costs amid lower oil prices and the coronavirus crisis.

The UAE’s third-biggest lender is laying off 400 employees, two sources familiar with the matter said, after it had committed to not cutting staff because of the crisis.

In a statement, a spokesman said ADCB had pursued efficiency over the last decade by managing out its lowest underachievers after regular reviews, while ensuring talent was deployed in high-growth areas, such as digital banking.

“A certain number of redundancies are therefore expected every year in the normal course of business,” the bank spokesman added.

The sources said the cuts would involve ADCB’s consumer business and several in top management were among those being let go. One source said the bank was looking to close 20 branches.

In March, ADCB had declared, “No employee will be made redundant during 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

UAE banks have been hit by government measures to rein in the spread of the virus, forcing many businesses to shut temporarily.

Last week, Dubai’s largest bank, Emirates NBD, reported a slump of 58% in profits. In June, sources told Reuters the bank started a new round of hundreds of lay-offs.

In May, ADCB reported a fall of 84% in first-quarter net profit as it took impairments of $292 million on debt exposure to troubled hospital operator NMC Health and payments group Finablr.

It was a major lender, with an exposure of about $981 million, to NMC Health, which went into administration this year after months of turmoil following questions over financial reporting.

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