The first astronaut from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Hazza Al Mansouri, returned from space this week after his stay at the International Space Station.
The news marks a significant milestone for the UAE and the region – and, as World Space Week kicks off this Friday, we could not be more proud.
Indeed, UAE has actively supported international and regional space collaboration, and built strong ties with more than 25 entities to set up and improve regional capacity-building initiatives in the region.
Established in 2014 by a federal decree, UAE Space Agency (UAESA) is the first space agency in the Arab region. It focuses on the development of policies, strategies and plans related to the national space sector, and is responsible for establishing partnerships, guiding academic programs and supporting space exploration, and investment in research.
This dedicated work to advance scientific knowledge through international and local partnerships helped UAESA win this year’s WSIS Prize for international and regional cooperation on Space Era.
Space plays a critical role in sustainable development.
Not only can we use satellites to track and monitor climate change, but a strong and sustainable national space sector can help to strengthen specialized local skillsets, and establish international partnerships to conduct space missions that would increase scientific knowledge and drive innovation.
However, urgent action is needed to mobilize and unlock the transformative power of trillions of dollars of private resources to deliver on sustainable development objectives.
Long-term investments are needed in critical sectors, especially in developing countries. These include sustainable energy, infrastructure and transport, information and communications technologies – as well as the space industry.
A successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society built upon principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals that place people and the planet at the center.
Such partnerships are needed at the global, regional, national and local level.
The UAE has been an ardent supporter of international and regional space sector collaboration among the Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab countries. The Arab Group for Space Cooperation is an historic agreement involving 11 Arab nations aiming to advance the development of the region’s space sector, with the ultimate goal of establishing an Arab space agency based in the UAE.
Recently, the UAE also became an official member of the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters and member in the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences.
Initiatives for the development of space cooperation agreements and membership into international space organizations over the last decade have helped UAE to gain international recognition. Together with leading international space agencies around the world – including NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, the UK Space Agency, CNES, KARI and others – we will cooperate in space exploration, knowledge exchange, technology transfers and other important areas.
For example, the UAE and India will collaborate in training, space sciences, satellite navigation, remote sensing, launching and interacting with industry.
UAESA has also joined the Space Climate Observatory initiative which aims to harness the power of space technology in monitoring and tackling climate change and is spearheaded by the French National Centre for Space Studies (CNES).
These kinds of international and regional partnerships are vital for ensuring that space plays a continued and lasting role in sustainable development.
It is important to engage young Emiratis with an interest in space and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. They are the leaders of tomorrow’s space technology.
UAESA implements a range of initiatives alongside various educational organizations — both domestic and foreign.
Educational camps organized by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre aim to empower the next generation in subjects ranging from biochemistry for space to rocket modelling.
In academia, projects are already being launched in partnership with international space stations, such as the MeznSat 3U CubeSat project spearheaded by students from Khalifa University and the American University of Ras Al Khaimah which will measure methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as well as provide insight into the concentration of nutrients in the Arabian Gulf. It will be launched in collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
This cooperation aims to adopt projects, initiatives and curricula aimed at establishing a national fluency in space science and technology. In fact, the number of students interested in studying STEM subjects has doubled since the establishment of the UAE Space Agency and the announcement of the Emirates Mars Mission.
UAESA’s educational efforts focus on human capacity-building as a fundamental building block of a flourishing space sector, and supports opportunities and scientific missions in the space sector in coordination with national and international authorities.
One of the most popular programmes in recent years was the UAE Astronaut Programme competition to select the nation’s first astronauts which received more than 4,000 applications – and captured the imagination of an entire nation.
The recently launched National Plan for the Promotion of Space Investment and the comprehensive new Space Law – the first of its kind in the region – is already supporting the transformation of the UAE into a regional hub for commercial space activity.
the Space Law will provide protection for the national space sector, stimulate foreign investments and invigorate domestic industries.
I look forward to the continued and long-term growth of the UAE’s space industry to support sustainable development.