UAE space sector to boost economy significantly
Dr. Khalifa Mohammed Thani Al-Romaithi (centre), former chairman of the UAE Space Agency, recieves a memento from Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi (left), Minister of State for Higher Education and chairman of the agency, during the third anniversary celebrations in Abu Dhabi. Dr. Mohammed Al Ahbabi, director-general of the agency, is also seen. - Photo By Ryan Lim
Abu Dhabi - In the past three years alone, the UAE witnessed a tremendous amount of success and gained global recognition and respect for its space missions
The UAE Space Agency will contribute significantly to the UAE economy, despite the current circumstances the region faces today, Khaleej Times has learned.
On the sidelines of the third anniversary celebrations of the UAE Space Agency, Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi, director-general of the UAE Space Agency, spoke to Khaleej Times about how the UAE's space sector will help generate revenue for the country. "Space is a key and significant tool to any economy, contributing to a knowledge based economy.
"We have already accomplished a lot in the past three years, although three years means nothing in any space organisation, because it has a long-term policy."
Dr Al Ahbabi said that within the past three years alone, the UAE witnessed a tremendous amount of success and gained global recognition and respect for its space missions. "We became a recognised and credible space agency in spite of the shortage of skills."
When it comes to space missions, opportunities and projects are endless, which is why authorities are boosting the number of employees.
In February, the UAE announced that it will be establishing the first colony in Mars by 2117. Dr Al Ahbabi said that although it is a project with a deadline in 100 years, it will nevertheless help raise the economy, build skills, and boost the UAE's education, technology and innovation sectors. "Our leadership believes that space is the key to our future. It's part of our strategy; this is why the government is interested in exploring Mars."
"The UAE aims to be part of the world consortium in establishing the first settlement on Mars. The reason behind that is because we want to inspire young people, we want to educate them and solve challenges that we are facing on Earth today.
"By having the finest scientists in the world, who may help solve the challenges on Mars - we could find solutions on Earth," he added.
Dr Al Ahbabi said that nine international space experts and advisory committee meet with the UAE Space Agency every year, to plan and develop the space missions. By next September, Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat), which is owned by Mubadala and is in the top ten around the world providing satellite solutions - will be serving South America.
"The company currently has two satellites and is now working on the third, so it is generating cash for the government. Just imagine, that someone in the Amazon is being served by a company in the Arabian desert," added Dr Al Ahbabi, also one of the founders of Yahsat.
Dr Al Ahbabi noted that what is crucial however, is to look at the long term economic benefits of the space sector, rather than merely the short term benefits.
Dr Al Ahbabi stressed that collaborating with space agencies is also a key factor to boosting the economy, adding that: "No country on Earth can do everything.
"Some countries have space agencies, but without programmes, they only have names - and we don't want that, we are not after that. We are after projects, because we want to bring knowledge, technology and services to the country."
He pointed out that at the end of the day, the UAE government are focusing on space, to ensure that future generations are secured. "The government wants to raise the bar of expectations of the young people."
More than 3000 students have so far been trained by the UAE Space Agency, in order to gain knowledge, as well as develop passion for what is beyond the planet. "We are trying to use space to draw a positive picture and provide hope for the youth, not only in the UAE but in the region, despite what is happening in our region."
UAE Space Agency's top 5 accomplishments, according to Dr Al Ahbabi1) Establishing a national space agency in the region
2) To launch and maintain the first Arab and Islamic mission to Mars, and keep it on track
3) Place laws and regulations about the UAE space programme: "We are clear and open that our space programme is for the benefits of our people, our region and our humanity."
4) To train and educate students through summer camps and programmes, which helps inspire youngsters to grow passion for the space sector
5) Having a strong team: "I am proud of my team. A great accomplishment is having a dream team, a passionate team, who come in early and leave late - and this is where you can witness their hope to space."