Browsing 'science' News

A report published in Science Magazine has revealed how the Arab blockade is harmfully affecting scientific developments in Qatar. But in the end, if the standoff continues, it will prove to be mutually destructive. Everyone loses when it comes to science.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain have ordered their citizens to leave Qatar. Students and visiting scientists have had to exit the country, along with Qataris in the blockade countries. It disrupted or ended the education of aspiring scientists in the entire Middle-East.

The blockade has disturbed shipments to Qatar of lab reagents and equipment, which came mostly from UAE. Qatari researchers can’t easily exchange materials with their gulf neighbors, and vice versa. The blockade has put on hold some grants with Egypt, UAE, and Saudi Arabia in fields from solid state physics to coral reefs. King Abdullah University of Science & Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, told faculty on five grants to end the projects. Scientists in the emirates could face jail time and fines if they show sympathy for Qatar. Another casualty of the tensions are eight projects in biomedicine and other areas, funded in 2016 by Qatar University and four Saudi and UAE universities.

Contingents from Qatar’s neighbors are disappearing from scientific meetings, and Qatari scientists are barred from entering UAE, Bahrain, or Saudi Arabia for conferences there. Truly a lose-lose situation. It is not just Qatar, but the Arab bloc will be bearing the consequences of its actions, too. Scientific developments in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain will also suffer.

Burgeoning biomedical cooperation between the Gulf countries is critical since they share common disease challenges that can be best handled through collective R&D investments.

Perhaps, they fail to recognise the significance of knowledge economy. Reliance on oil and natural gas will not last. Science is the engine of future prosperity. Economists have said that a third to a half of U.S. economic growth has resulted from basic research since World War II.

Qatar, Saudi, UAE and Bahrain must remember that their collective future depends on the decisions they take today. There will be pressing issues to handle, from providing energy security to curing illnesses, to living sustainably in a world that’s not infinite. The ongoing crisis will one day end. What will remain is the challenge future poses. And only uninterrupted collaboration in research and innovation can help secure the Middle-East.

Audi lunar quattro

Kate Arkless Gray / PT Scientists

Audi lunar quattro

A team of scientists has successfully tested one of the world’s first privately-funded moon rovers in Qatar’s Zekreet desert this past weekend.

Part Time (PT) Scientists from Germany is aiming to launch its Audi Lunar Quattro into by space next year.

They have been testing the device on glaciers, mountains and volcanoes, but this was the first time the rover has tried out the desert.

Testing the rover in Qatar's Zekreet desert.

Kate Arkless Gray

Testing the rover in Qatar’s Zekreet desert.

To the scientists’ surprise, the device found that the best way to handle sand dunes was by going backwards.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s intense heat did pose a challenge, according to Torsten Kriening, a Middle East consultant for PT Scientists.


The moon rover is in the running for a Google X Prize. According to the terms of that competition, the first group to get their rover to travel 500m on the moon and send high-resolution video, still images and other data back home wins $20 million.

Desert findings

Qatar’s desert is home to several types of sand, which made it an optimal location to test the rover’s sustainability and durability.

For a first-time test, the results were generally positive, but some changes will need to made, Kriening said during a media briefing today.

“We found that slopes were a challenge. For some reason, the rover did better going up backwards on the dunes,” he added.

Thermal frames of the rover, showing various temperatures it endured in the desert heat.

PT Scientists

Thermal frames of the rover, showing various temperatures it endured in the desert heat.

The team used a thermal imaging camera to see how the rover would perform at different temperatures and noticed that the engines in particular struggled with the high temperatures.

In a statement, it said:

“With thermal imaging we’ve determined how the heat after longer drives is working its way through the systems. We’ve found that our 3D-printed aluminum wheels seem to transport a bit better than we anticipated thus the inner driving motors heated up pretty quickly. However the important circuits and parts still remained good to work in operational temperature ranges.”

On the plus side, PT Scientists CEO Robert Boehme said that the rover traveled well over soft sand, which is similar to lunar sand.

Speaking to Doha News, he said this is because a lot of the device has been 3D printed and is lightweight.

On the other hand, the rover may not be heavy enough for harder sand.

With these findings in hand, the team hopes to make the necessary adjustments before performing a full functioning analog test, during which operators will be in a different location than the rover.


Two of these rovers are expected to go to space via the Autonomous Landing and Navigation Module (ALINA), a lunar lander also developed by the team for the Google Lunar X Prize competition.

PT Scientists' lunar lander, ALINA

PT Scientists

PT Scientists’ lunar lander, ALINA

After this mission is completed, ALINA, which can carry up to 100kg of payload, will be used to help universities and research teams carry out experiments in space by transporting their equipment.

This will allow them to complete experiments through a private entity, rather than wait for government approval. It will also help them hold on to their own intellectual property rights, PT Scientists said.


Audi lunar quattro

Part Time Scientists

Audi lunar quattro

A team of scientists who hope to put the world’s first privately-funded rover on the moon will be in Qatar this week to test their device under grueling desert conditions.

Part Time (PT) Scientists will head to south Zekreet with their Audi Lunar Quattro this weekend and scope out different locations there.

Speaking to Doha News, PT Scientists CEO Robert Boehme said the team was scouting for a site that best resembles the “harsh environment of our target on the moon, the Taurus-Littrow Valley.”

Bir Zekreet

[email protected] Abdelmaksoud/Flickr

Bir Zekreet

He continued:

“Within our research we have found the Zekreet desert to be a very likely candidate for our test program because of the well-balanced mixture of smaller rocks, loose sand and steep slopes while still maintaining a good reachability.”

While in the desert, the group will test whether the rover can deal “with the sand and dust of the terrain and prove whether the passive thermal management will work as expected,” PT Scientists said in a statement.

Previously, the device has passed muster on glaciers in Austria, volcanos in Crete, mountains in New Zealand, in the remote Australian Outback and within the laboratories of NASA.

Google competition

PT Scientists has been working on their lunar project for eight years.

They are competing to win the Google Lunar X Prize, which aims to boost exploration by giving private space ventures a total of $30 million in funding.

The first group to get their rover to travel 500m on the moon and send high-resolution video, still images and other data back home wins $20 million.

The runner-up gets $5 million, according to the contest rules.

Google will award additional bonus funds of varying amounts for other tasks, including additional scientific and technical achievements or sending back images of artifacts like lunar landers from the Apollo program.

According to the National, PT Scientist’s rover is made mostly of aluminum, weighs 35kg and can reach speeds of up to 3.6km an hour.

The report added that the team is in the final stage of testing and hopes to start making the 380,000km journey to the moon in November 2017.