2021 TIME100 Next
Khushnum Bhandari
February 17, 2021 6:55 AM EST

Dreaming of going to Mars is easy; getting there is brutally hard. So it was no small thing when the Hope spacecraft from the United Arab Emirates’ space agency went into orbit around the Red Planet on Feb. 9. It was no small thing either that the person whom experts cite as the most responsible for the UAE triumph was Sarah Al Amiri, the project’s lead scientist, heading a team that is 80% women. In addition to her work sending a spacecraft to Mars—a landmark achievement more than six years in the making—Al Amiri is the UAE’s Minister for Advanced Sciences, and serves as something of a global emissary for the UAE and its rapidly developing science and tech sector. The space agency she chairs was the fifth to ever reach Mars’ orbit. (China joined the ultra-exclusive club, which also includes the U.S. and India, soon after the UAE on Feb. 10.) Amiri has said that the Hope spacecraft’s success was an indicator of all the UAE aspires to accomplish in the next 50 years, as the country continues to diversify its economy and build upon its technological prowess. —Jeffrey Kluger

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