This came during a two-day virtual Expo Space Week that ended on Tuesday.
Experts have stressed the need for diversifying the UAE’s space education programmes at public and private universities. This came during a two-day virtual Expo Space Week that ended on Tuesday.
On day two of the programme, Fahad Al Mheiri, executive director, space sector, UAE Space Agency, said space investment has shown to “directly correlate” with the improvement of the quality of life of the people.
He said the UAE now has three universities offering five dedicated space programmes. Four research and development centres are affiliated to these universities. The country with a relatively young space programme is one of the elite few countries to have a Mars exploration programme and a lunar mission.
“The UAE Space Agency has already invested more than Dh160 million in space-related projects in these universities. The UAE is also proud to have supported nearly 48 students through sponsorships and scholarships. Some of these UAE nationals were supported from the time they were in high school to where they are now – actually working in the space sector,” added Al Mheiri.
Story of Hope: Mars mission
Omran Sharaf, project director of the Emirates Mars Mission (Hope Probe) at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), said if a young nation like the UAE is able to reach Mars in less than 50 years, the Arab youth can do much more. “It is a region with over 100 million youth and has infinite possibilities.”
Sharaf said the team only had six years to launch the Hope Probe to Mars. “Nearly 50 per cent of other missions to Mars have failed. We were told that we have to build it, not buy it, and the science has to be novel, not something that was done before. It was the Arab world’s first deep science mission,” said Sharaf.
Despite all the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Hope orbiter was launched on July 19 this year. “We were at risk of delaying the mission for two years due to Covid-19. However, it was the UAE’s able leadership and team members taking ownership of the programme that led to its success.”
He said the launch of the mission also led universities to start their own space and science programmes, space centres, and space-related projects. “It was around this time we saw Arab students shifting their attention from finance to physics, math, and chemistry,” he added.
Space exploration not a waste of resources
In response to those who are still considering a space exploration programme a waste of resources, Dr Ilias Fernini, vice director-general for research and scientific projects, Sharjah Academy for Astronomy, Space Sciences and Technology, said: “Space education is very important. One of the ways to change this perspective is to invite young minds into the field of space exploration and applications.”
He said Internet and GPS facilities come from space programmes. “If you lose your Internet connection for a minute, you feel lost, and this proves that satellites have improved the quality of our lives. We are in the 21st century. Space education and investment is of utmost importance.”
Next up: Climate and biodiversity
The two-day virtual Expo Space Week was the first in a series of pre-Expo themed weeks that will feature leading experts. Reem Al Hashimy, Director-General of Expo 2020 Dubai and the UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation, said during her closing remarks on Tuesday: “Where else but at a World Expo could we hear from politicians and project leaders, skydivers and software engineers, and students with stars in their eyes.”
She also announced that the next event in the pre-Expo series is on climate and biodiversity, which runs on October 19-21. “We are already witnessing to the consequences of humanity’s indifference to the health of this planet and the species we share it with. Now we must make a difference through our actions, and sow the seeds of transformation.”
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