In its first, UAE launches 'Hope' mission to Mars from Japan

News Network
July 20, 2020

Abu Dhabi, Jul 20: The United Arab Emirates launched its first-ever interplanetary Hope Probe mission to Mars from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre at 01:58 a.m. (local time) on Monday.

"United Arab Emirates (UAE) launches its first mission to Mars, the 'Hope Mars Mission' from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center," UAE Space Agency said on its Twitter page.

The spacecraft is expected to reach Mars orbit in about 200 days from now and then begin its mission to study the Red Planet's atmosphere, WAM news agency reported.

Once it enters Mars' orbit in the first quarter of 2021, the Hope probe will mark the UAE's 50th anniversary.

The probe will travel 493 million kilometres into space in a journey that will take seven months, and will orbit the Red Planet for one full Martian year of 687 days to provide the first truly global picture of the Martian atmosphere.

The Hope probe will be the first to study the Martian climate throughout daily and seasonal cycles. It will observe the weather phenomena on Mars such as the massive famous dust storms that have been known to engulf the Red Planet, as compared to the short and localised dust storms on Earth.

It will also examine the interaction between the upper and lower layers of the Martian atmosphere and causes of the Red Planet's surface corrosion, as well as study why Mars is losing its upper atmosphere.

Exploring connections between today's Martian weather and the ancient climate of the Red Planet will give deeper insights into the past and future of Earth as well as the potential of life on Mars and other distant planets.

The Hope Mars Mission is considered as the biggest strategic and scientific national initiative announced by UAE's President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2014. The UAE will be the first Arab nation to embark on a space mission to the Red Planet in a journey that contributes to the international science community as a service to human knowledge.

The interplanetary mission is the first by any West Asian, Arab or Muslim majority country.

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News Network
September 23,2020

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Sharjah, Sep 23: An Indian expatriate cannot believe that he can finally go home after 20 years, with Dh750,000 of fine waived off by Sharjah authorities.

What's in a name? Even a letter matters, says Thanavel Mathiazhaagan, an Indian worker in the UAE who is set to return home after being granted a waiver of nearly Dh750,000 in overstay fines, reports Gulf News.

The man from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu claims that he could not avail amnesty opportunities in the UAE in the last 20 years as his identity verification was not cleared from India due to a mismatch in his father's name in documents back home and that shown in his passport. As it turns out, there was a spelling error in his father's name in the documents in India.

Mathiazhaagan, 56, said he himself realised this (the reason for not getting the clearance) only after his latest request for repatriation was taken up by two social workers in the UAE after he sought their help to return home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He told media that he had landed in the UAE in 2000 after paying Rs 120,000 (Dh6,048) to a recruitment agent for a job in Abu Dhabi. This could be verified from the stamp on his employment visa entry permit -- the only document that Mathiazhaagan has preserved, apart from a copy of the last page of his passport.

He said the agent had taken his original passport, claiming that his residence visa would be stamped in the passport once he gets the medical fitness certificate issued.

"I took the medical test and waited for my employment visa. But, the agent kept delaying it and later I got to know that the company, which was supposed to hire me, had shut down." Eventually, he said, the agent stopped answering his calls and could not be traced at all later.

"I stayed in a room with some people from my native place. I lived there for eight months with no job. After that I came to Sharjah and started doing odd jobs."

Mathiazhaagan said he illegally stayed in the UAE to feed his family by doing part-time jobs for various households and companies.

He claimed that he did try for returning home during the previous visa amnesty offers in the UAE and lost more than Dh10,000 to people who promised to help him with clearance of his documents that never came through.

Prior to the fine waiver announced till November 17 this year for people with expired visas or who had their visas cancelled before March 1 during the Covid-19 pandemic, the UAE government had granted visa amnesties in 2003, 2007, 2012 and 2018.

Gulf News could not independently verify if Mathiazhaagan had indeed applied for an emergency certificate (EC), a one-way travel document issued to Indians without a valid passport, in order to facilitate their return home, during the earlier instances of amnesty.

However, A. K. Mahadevan and Chandra Prakash. P, who helped Mathiazhaagan get an EC through the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi, said he had failed to get identity clearance from India during the pandemic. They said they found out the reason behind the rejection only after Mathiazhaagan met Mahadevan, seeking help to return home.

"His name is Thanavel Mathiazhaagan as per the copy of the last page of his lost passport and the UAE entry permit," said Prakash, the Vice-President of Indian People's Forum, a community organisation that also pitched to get a travel clearance for Mathiazhaagan.

"Unfortunately, the documents sent by Trichy Regional Passport Office to the Senthurai Police Station for his identity verification showed his father's name as Thangavel whereas his father's actual name is Thanavel -- according to all other records. The additional letter 'g' in the name created the problem," said Prakash.

The duo said they approached the Indian Embassy and the local departments in Mathiazhaagan's village to rectify the mistake and process his documents. "Indian Ambassador to the UAE Pavan Kapoor took special interest in solving this case after the issue was taken up with him," said Prakash.

Mahadevan said he was happy that Mathiazhaagan would be flying home soon and meeting his youngest daughter, who had not even been born when he left India for the UAE.

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News Network
September 14,2020

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Jeddah, Sept 14: The resumption of Umrah service will begin in the near future with only a limited number of domestic pilgrims being allowed to perform the ritual in the initial phase, Okaz/Saudi Gazette has learnt from informed sources.

The Ministry of Interior announced on Sunday partial lifting of travel restrictions from Sept. 15 and the total lifting of the restrictions effective from Jan. 1, 2021. The ministry stated that a plan to lift the suspension of Umrah service will be announced gradually in light of the developments related to the pandemic.

According to the sources, domestic pilgrims will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage provided they fulfill certain terms and conditions. It will be mandatory for the pilgrims to carry with them a medical certificate to show that they are tested negative for the coronavirus.

The opening of the door for Umrah will be made in line with the coronavirus precautionary measures and preventive protocols. The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah will announce soon the terms and conditions in this regard, the source pointed out.

The source confirmed that there will be a mobile application that specifies the date and time of performance of the pilgrimage by each pilgrim and that a permit to perform Umrah will be issued by the concerned authorities to those fulfilling the terms and conditions.

Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah for Hajj Affairs Dr. Hussein Al-Sharif confirmed to Okaz/Saudi Gazette earlier that the ministry will work to evaluate the experience of the exceptional success of the last Hajj. He said that the ministry will take advantage of this successful experience in implementing high-quality health and regulatory measures for the coming Umrah season.

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News Network
September 28,2020

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Riyadh, Sept 28: Saleh Benten Muhammad, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Hajj and Umrah has announced that the Ministry of Health would take a decision on whether India and other countries will be allowed to send their pilgrims to perform Umrah.

The minister’s announcement follows an earlier statement by the Ministry of Interior saying that the Kingdom would allow foreign Umrah performers to enter the Kingdom in the third phase of the gradual resumption of the suspended Umrah service effective from Nov. 1.

In a television interview with Al-Ekhbariya channel, Benten said that there would be a special electronic path for the arrival and departure of foreign Hajj pilgrims for next year’s Hajj. Referring to the resumption of Umrah service for domestic pilgrims effective from Oct. 4, the minister said that only 12 groups of pilgrims would be allowed to perform Umrah within 24 hours in the first phase.

“The pilgrims will be divided into groups and each group will be accompanied by a health professional at the Haram. Only pilgrims with ages ranging between 18 and 65 years will be allowed in the first phase,” he said.

Benten revealed that there is no fee for issuance of Umrah permit. “No Umrah pilgrims will be allowed to enter the Grand Mosque in Makkah without completing the entry procedures through the mobile app “I’tamarana” and this is to ensure the health and safety of pilgrims,” he said, adding that alternative arrangement will be made if there is any technical snag for completing the procedures through the app.

Domestic pilgrims

Saudi citizens and expatriates as well as their families in the Kingdom are allowed to download the Umrah mobile application titled “I’tamarna,” effective from Sunday to register their names to perform Umrah pilgrimage as well as to visit and worship at the Two Holy Mosques.

The application is now available for users of iOS and Android operating systems on their smartphones seven days before the start of the first phase of the pilgrimage. The Ministry of Interior announced earlier the gradual resumption of Umrah and visits to the Two Holy Mosques with a limited number of pilgrims, starting from Oct. 4.

In the first phase, citizens and expatriates from within the Kingdom will be allowed to perform Umrah at a capacity of 30 percent from Oct. 4 that translates to 6,000 pilgrims per day and that is in compliance with the health precautionary measures of the Grand Mosque. The pilgrims will be allowed to perform the ritual in 12 groups, each consisting of 500 pilgrims in a day.

The registration of the data entered by the pilgrims and visitors to the Two Holy Mosques will be directly related to the application “Tawakkalna,” the official app launched by the Ministry of Health to prevent the spread of coronavirus. This step would consist of a number of procedures, including providing a guarantee that the pilgrim or visitor is free from coronavirus, the Ministry of Hajj said.

The app will enable the pilgrims and visitors to plan their pilgrimage and visit in advance, as well as to make reservation of optional services to perform their rituals in ease and comfort, in addition to ensuring the compliance of the health and precautionary measures and preventive protocols, approved by the Ministry of Health and other competent authorities, to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The Ministry of Hajj has developed the app in cooperation with the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) to regulate the times of rituals of those wishing to visit Makkah and Madinah to perform Umrah and pray at the Two Holy Mosques.

Meanwhile, stores for Ihram clothing resumed business after a long interval of more than six months in Saudi Arabia prior to the partial resumption of the Umrah season from next Sunday. Ihram is one of the three pillars of Umrah, and it means entering the sacred state, during which certain things are prohibited. Men must wear two pieces of unstitched sheet of white cloth while women can wear their ordinary clothes.

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