Sultan Al Neyadi’s selection for a six-month stay at the International Space Station (ISS) in 2023 proves the UAE has long-term ambitions in the so-called final frontier. It would be apt to call the UAE a modern space pioneer post the pandemic, and it has been a short journey of just 50 years to get to this achievement.
What’s commendable is that the first manned space flight and Mars Hope mission were launched during the peak of the pandemic when the world was in disarray and chaos spilled across borders. But three years was all it took to get there, though the build-up to these big events had been taking place for a decade.
By launching these space and planetary missions, the leadership and mission planners were confident in the country’s ability to surmount challenges, in this case, a full-blown health crisis that had swept through the world and had affected millions of people.
The UAE, in fact, thrives during difficult times, as it has shown during the pandemic. It acted quickly at home with vaccines while not taking its eyes off things above, like the stars and planets. A higher calling beckoned.
There were new worlds to conquer and the coronavirus would not be allowed to scupper developments in the quest for knowledge. The country only recently earmarked $820 million in investments in space and satellites.
While some superpowers have stepped back from their space exploration due to cutbacks in funding, the UAE is soaring ahead with plans to build a city on Mars by 2117. By sending more humans into space and partnering with global agencies, the UAE is learning and delivering on the promise of space, and the technologies developed for these missions could be put to use for applications here on earth.
The country has forged partnerships with the US, Russia, Japan, and even private players like Elon Musk’s SpaceX. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will take Al Neyadi to the ISS next spring where he will spend half a year with astronauts from other countries. For the UAE, space spells new life and is the start of a long odyssey.
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