The UAE’s Ambitious Space Program

  • 26 May 2015

The UAE has always given great attention to scientific knowledge and considers it the essential path towards development. The Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (may God bless his soul) started this approach and since then the UAE has aspired to enter the field of space research. The decision taken last year by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (may God protect him), to set up the UAE Space Agency, was the first step towards achieving this important goal. Another important event in this context unfolded on Monday when the Agency unveiled the UAE’s space strategy and the plan to send the first Arab and Muslim worlds’ probe to Mars in 2021.

The event was held in the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center and was attended by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai (may God protect him). The UAE Space Agency announced its strategic objectives, especially three of its main ones. The first is to develop a world-class national space sector that supports sustainable development and helps it join the group of countries that lead space exploration around the world. The second objective is to promote space research and innovation that support progress in space science and technologies. The third objective is to nurture talented UAE nationals and train them to become pioneers in space sciences.

By outlining these three objectives, the UAE’s space program has highlighted several important facts. First, the program has boundless ambitions not limited to boosting knowledge and technology and making economic growth sustainable. Instead it seeks to propel the UAE into a leading international position in space sector, which is one of the most advanced sectors. This program demonstrates the vast ambitions the wise leadership has for the country and its keenness to harness all resources at its disposal to enhance its standing among the most advanced countries in the world.

The UAE’s efforts to create a national space program are based on scientific research and sound planning. This is evident in the second strategic objective of the UAE Space Agency, which focuses on support for scientific space research and implementation of space exploration projects to promote the science and technology sector in the country and not just the space sector. Third, the UAE is aware that it cannot achieve its space ambitions if the program is not implemented and driven by Emirati nationals. It is also aware that it cannot guarantee its leadership in this field over time unless its nationals compete with their counterparts in space science abroad.

The UAE is always keen to raise the awareness of the community about the need to shoulder responsibility and contribute towards achieving the country’s space ambitions. It also continuously develops educational curricula in sciences, including space sciences, in order to train its national cadres to work in this sector. The UAE also employs Emiratis who are qualified in various technical and administrative specializations in the national space program. These steps are taken to prepare them to take up responsibilities and lead this vital sector in the future.