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‘Our Differences Bring About Great Innovation.’ Sarah Al Amiri, Who Helped the UAE Get to Mars, Accepts a TIME100 Impact Award

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Sarah Al Amiri knows the importance of cultivating diversity in science. Indeed, she assembled a team that included 80% women to help the United Arab Emirates, a nation of fewer than 10 million people, join the ultra-exclusive Mars exploration club.

Al Amiri, 35, paid tribute to the power of representation Monday night as she accepted her TIME 100 Impact Award at the Museum of the Future in Dubai. “When we realize that prosperity is the result of leveling the playing field globally, by ensuring that diversity becomes a norm, and acknowledging that our differences bring about great innovation—and more importantly, by removing the colored lens that we sometimes see the world through,” she said, “only then can we harness the creativity within us all driving true impact.”

Al Amiri, now the head of the UAE Space Space Agency, made history last year as the youngest lead scientist to help send a spacecraft to Mars. The UAE Space Agency is just the fifth space program to ever to reach the Red Planet’s orbit. The spacecraft—dubbed “Al-Amal” or “Hope”—has been studying Mars’ atmosphere and sending back troves of data and discoveries to further the world’s space exploration efforts.

During her speech Monday, Al Amiri reflected on the importance of seeing other women in leadership positions, and the potential of youth as “designers of the future” of her region. In addition to serving as Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, she is also the UAE’s Minister of State for Advanced Technology, and Al Amiri has used her platform to become a strong advocate for gender representation and equality in the Gulf country’s rapidly developing science and tech sector.

Al Amiri also reflected on catching up with her role model—the trailblazing Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, who became the first woman in the history of the UAE to assume a cabinet position.

“She was what I aspired to be, and a trailblazer in her field,” Amiri told the audience. “I say this because true impact is driven by the collective. It is a series of individuals and societies that drive change that have us all here standing today, celebrating the one that represents the all.”

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Write to Nik Popli at nik.popli@time.com