UAE's space programme: Official says country has qualified national calibre in all fields

At the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre Emiratisation rate is 100% with 50% members of the team being women


Lamya Tawfik

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Published: Mon 6 Feb 2023, 10:18 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Mar 2023, 12:39 PM

The UAE’s space programme is a testament to the country’s spirit of innovation, according to an official with the programme.

Speaking at Innovation Talks, which is part of the month-long nation-wide initiative UAE Innovates, Mohammed Al Harmi, senior director, Administrative Affairs Department, Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), said that Emiratisation rate at the centre is 100%.

He said that when the programme was established in 2006, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, was clear about wanting UAE Nationals to be working on the space programme. “Today we are proud of having a 100 per cent Emiratisation rate, with 50 per cent of the team being women and with an average age of 26 years old,” he said, highlighting the importance of gender balance and youth involvement in the space programme.

Establishing the space programme was the second decision made by Sheikh Mohammed after he became the Ruler of Dubai. “His vision was to establish the UAE as a leader in scientific explorations and discoveries. We focused on putting in place the framework for this sector in the UAE,” said Al Harmi, adding that this was soon followed by the launching of major projects.

Work was then put into boosting the capabilities of scientific facilities to support the sector, supporting Stem SMEs, investing in the scientific calibre and inspiring future generations in the field of science, engineering and advanced technologies, he explained.

He added that under the UAE space programme, there were four main elements: Developing satellites, discovering Mars, the UAE astronaut programme and the Mars 2071 strategy.

In addition to focusing on UAE nationals from all engineering specialisations in the space programme, Al Harmi said that the technological aspect of the field is growing nationally as many parts are built in the UAE.

Speaking about the UAE astronaut programme, he said that it is an inspirational for future generations. “When we were young, we wanted to be football players and policemen, but Sheikh Zayed had a vision: Why are other nations in space and not us. The idea was there, and the vision continued,” he said. Today, he added, it is common for many young students to wear space suits and schools have many space-themed events.

Going to space and being an astronaut is not limited to pilots and engineers as mental and physical capabilities are the deciding factors. Speaking on the importance of space missions, he said that scientific studies are one of the main reasons. “If you think about it toothpaste, MRIs and X-rays were invented in space. In space, there’s no politics, countries are together seeking to study the future, agriculture and medicine,” he said.

He said that the upcoming mission which will see Sultan Al Neyadi spending six months on the ISS will be important from a scientific perspective. “We will study the effect of climate change on his body, for instance. There are many challenges, and we will have more than 18 scientific missions in addition to partnerships with other countries,” he said.

Scientific research, technological developments, understanding the effects of space travel and international partnerships are in fact the main underlying objectives of the space programme in the UAE. “We are the fifth country in the world to do missions in deep space,” he said.

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