The UAE Space Agency Advisory Committee commenced its third annual meeting in Abu Dhabi to discuss the latest developments in the national space sector. The Committee also discussed current and future space projects along with methods of further developing the sector’s capabilities with regards to scientific research, space technology and human capacity.
The meeting was chaired by His Excellency Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills, and Chairman of the UAE Space Agency. He was joined by Dr. Eng. Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency, and a number of officials, administrators and engineers. Among members who attended the UAE Space Agency’s Advisory Committee were Jean-Jacques Dordain, Former Director General of European Space Agency; Charles F. Bolden Jr., Former NASA Administrator; Koppillil Radhakrishnan, Former Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Honorary Distinguished Advisor at the Department of Space/ISRO; and other key people from Korea Aerospace Research Institute; Japan and Russia.
H.E. Eng. Mohammed Al Ahbabi briefed the committee on the Agency’s latest developments and the current status of the national space sector. His Excellency spoke about the Emirates Mars Mission, the Mars 2117 project, Mars Scientific City and the UAE Astronaut Programme. The briefing also included a discussion on the nation’s future manned space missions, means of further developing space science research capabilities, and enhancing international partnerships and collaboration.
Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, H.E. Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi said: “The UAE Space Agency is working to facilitate the exchange of knowledge through cooperation with the world’s leading space agencies and organisations. The committee members here today have been chosen in view of their extensive knowledge and wide experience in the space sector. Through these meetings, we aim to strengthen our ambitious national space projects and ensure they are implemented in accordance with the highest international standards, in order to cement the UAE’s position as a leading space-faring nation.
“Our Advisory Committee members have far-reaching experience in leading global space projects, drafting space legislation and laws, and supporting space science and scientific research. The Committee includes former astronauts who have spent long periods of time in outer space or have participated in a number of manned space missions and other missions to the International Space Station.”
“The UAE Space Agency Advisory Committee has ten members, including scientists, experts, and heads of space agencies, who come annually to discuss our long-term plan and provide advice and guidelines. Space is a new domain in our region and the UAE is a pioneer in this space.
“We are using our space programmes to inspire, educate, train and engage with our youth. Together with our own ambitious space programme — including the UAE Astronaut Programme, the Mars Hope Probe launch in 2020, the opening of Mars Scientific City in 2021, and our long-term plan to establish a settlement on Mars by 2117 — we are inspiring a new generation of Arab space scientists and scholars.
“In the context of regional instability and uncertainty, we believe that our emerging regional space sector collaboration will provide hope, meaning and opportunity for the next generation.”
“I’m excited about the coming launch of the Hope Mission, which will supplement the work that is already going on between the US and India looking at the Martian atmosphere. This will give the UAE an opportunity to become part of a team that is helping us to understand more thoroughly and fully the Martian atmosphere and that’s a great example of how the UAE can fit into the international community when it comes to space exploration.
“There are several technical challenges that seem minor at the moment and one of them is propulsion. Going to Mars today is an eight-month mission … that’s too long. Eventually, it must become a matter of days. That means major demands on propulsion to what we are doing today … maybe get away from chemical propulsion and identify other better technologies. The average age of people at the UAE Space Agency is the 30s while the average age at our agencies is perhaps the upper 50s. “When you have a young population, you get fresh ideas from young people who think differently and are more likely to think of a way to speed up the transportation from what it is today. My recommendation to the UAE is to push into the international space community and become part of any international exploration group. Recently, around 25 nations put together the latest version of the global exploration roadmap and the UAE was a member of that team. Being there means you can make sure that your efforts are counted into the international milestones chart.”
“The current international regulations were set in the 60s when there were only two super powers. Space has evolved hugely since then with more actors, more satellites and more applications. The international laws have to be revisited … the best way to make international regulations is to start with national regulations and I’m glad there are more activities to develop national space regulations here in the UAE.”