The United Arab Emirates launched the first Arab Emirates Mars Mission, Hope Probe, on July 19th 2020. Led by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, this no-crew orbiter began its historical journey from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan and will reach the orbit in February 2021, to begin a two-year survey of the so-called Red Planet’s atmosphere. Built from scratch by the UAE in just six years, this mission aims to help answer key questions, namely, the loss of hydrogen and oxygen gases into space from the planet over the span of one Martian year. Without a doubt, Hope Mission is a landmark achievement for the UAE in the fields of science, engineering, and education.
The Space Fountain is the first UAE landmark that resembles the UAE Mars Mission known as Hope Probe. This innovative project has been launched by 5 young Emirati designers and engineers that have designed this space themed fountain. Khaleejesque writer, Saira Malik, recently sat down with Salem Al Messabi, the Creative Director of the project, to find out more about this cultural, artistic, and national landmark that they have proudly designed.
Saira Malik (SM): What is the Space Fountain and what is the purpose of building it?
Salem Al Messabi (SAM): The Space Fountain is an innovative monument proudly made by UAE youth. It’s set to be built as a cultural, artistic, and national landmark. It’s designed to resemble the launching moment of the Hope Probe Rocket. The purpose of the Space Fountain is to celebrate the UAE’s recent accomplishments in the space industry.
SM: When did you begin working on the project and so far what have been some of the most monumental dates for the project?
SAM: The project started in parallel with the Emirates Mars Mission. The launching of the Hope Probe was a phenomenal moment that shaped our country's history. We worked on the project from July 2020 and we launched our website and social media accounts by late October 2020.
We are at the stage of signing with sponsors and partners. We hope to confirm the location and the size of the Space Fountain in 2021.
SM: How many of you are working on this project and what is the expertise and role of each person?
SAM: We are a team 5 and each one of us plays a key role in the success of this project. I, Salem Al Messabi, am the Creative Director of this project, and I handle the art direction, the design of the rocket, as well as other elements like lighting and sound. Abdulaziz Al Mheiri is the Innovation Engineer and he handles the functionality of the fountain, the steam pressure, the electricity and anything to do with engineering in general. Muna Al Aidaros is the 3D designer, she brings our vision and ideas into concepts and prototypes, she has a great experience in interior design so that helped us a lot. Sadeq Al Katheri handles the business development and proposals to sponsors and partners. Hamad Al Nuaimi is our public relation key contact, he has experience in handling press releases as well as connecting us with the right people.
SM: In terms of the design of Space Fountain, we can see strong influences of US and Japanese elements, as well as the strong local Emirati-Arab artistic influence. Can you talk more about the inspiration for the design?
SAM: That’s true, the art direction of Space Fountain was influenced by many artists around the world. It was important for us to learn from other artists but also to reflect our culture in designing this project, that is why we added the Arabic calligraphy to reflect our cultural identity.
One of the main inspiring artists was the Japanese American artist Isamu Noguchi. He designed and built nine “floating” fountains for the World Expo in Osaka, Japan. Incredible fountains that look like they are flying.
The second influence would be NASA, it’s fascinating to see a space agency influence fashion and art. Also, looking at how their Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center is designed and focused into attracting science tourism is remarkable. We studied their park and learned a lot from how they design their space.
The third influence was the calligraphy work in the Museum of Future in Dubai. The way its carved and filled with LED lights and how they designed inspired us to follow a similar direction to reflect our Arab culture in this project.
SM: One of the most fascinating parts about this design is the water element that reflects the steam from the rocket’s engine, how was this designed and how does it work?
SAM: Yes, that is the winning card of our project. As I said, the optical illusion is the key element of our project's success. After our research and concept development we connected the ideas and came up with the design that gives the optical illusion of the rocket being launched.
We designed hidden valves that take the water up inside and pour it outside and in that process it’s hiding the valves from the audience’s eyes. Our concept was unique unlike the rest of the fountains, because ours captures and mimics the launching moment of the Hope Probe Rocket.
SM: What were some of the challenges in creating this project and how has your team dealt with them?
SAM: The main challenge was “time”; all of us have day jobs and we only could meet in the evening. That was challenging and meant that we had to sacrifice our fun time, our family time, this showed me that our team believed in this idea!
The second challenge was “research”; this project required us to read about the space industry and types of launching vehicles rockets as well as interviewing engineers who specialize in the fountain industry. All this knowledge was new to most of us, but the experience was enlightening to all of us.
SM: One of the most interesting features of this project is “its sustainability.” Can you talk more about the design materials and how is the design environmentally friendly?
SAM: We were keen on being environmentally friendly from the start of this project. Sustainability is a fundamental cornerstone in building the Space Fountain model. That is why we are going to build it using materials like recycled aluminum. To ensure its sustainability, we are going to power it partially with solar energy.
SM: Space Fountain is set to be a cultural landmark so what are the options of how and where it will be displayed?
SAM: We have developed the concept to be built both indoor (<10m) and outdoor (>30m). The art direction of the rocket itself has 3 options; The first option is the original Hope Probe Rocket, the second option is the metallic engraved or carved calligraphy, the last option is the projection mapping or LED light design (Which looks great at night only).
The complementary elements are: sound, dancing fountain, and lights. Each of these elements help to add an interesting touch to the show. Currently, we are still meeting with experts and exploring options.
SM: Your team is on the lookout for investors right now, how is that progressing so far and what is the next step forward for Space Fountain?
SAM: It’s overwhelming! We are really grateful to everybody who approached us and has interest in our project. We are meeting with government, and private entities who are interested in our project. We are aiming to sign up in early 2021 and announce the location of the project.
SM: What is the message you hope to send to the youth of the UAE when they see the Space Fountain?
SAM: That is an excellent question! The main purpose of our project is to inspire the UAE’s youth generation to “Explore, Experiment and Learn!” Our late father Sheikh Zayed’s dream is now a reality, it’s remarkable to see a leader in the 70s who has a futuristic vision like him. Right now, the UAE has started exploring space and we will need young astronauts, young engineers, and many jobs will need to be filled by our youth. That’s why I want to encourage them to learn and explore the space industry, also to be innovative and experiment with new things to help our country.
Words: Saira Malik
*All images courtesy of The Space Fountain Team
*Salem Al Messabi's portraits by Adham Alsaiaari