Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 October 2019

Earth's first message to aliens and an ode to space to feature at Expo 2020 Dubai

Space exploration has long been a theme of the world fair

Hazza Al Mansouri waves before boarding the Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station. EPA
Hazza Al Mansouri waves before boarding the Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station. EPA

From a radio telescope capable of detecting alien life to a poem beamed into the sky as a message from Earth, interstellar content will play a big part at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Space exploration has been a theme of the world fair for decades and next year, in Dubai South, that tradition will continue.

Visitors queued to see a moon rock brought back by Apollo astronauts on display at the 1970 world expo in Osaka. More than a decade earlier, replicas of Sputnik satellites drew curious crowds to the Soviet pavilion at the 1958 Brussels exposition.

Hazza Al Mansouri’s historic achievement in becoming the first Emirati in space sets new heights for our nation’s achievements

Marjan Faraidooni, Dubai Expo 2020

The ‘Man in the Space Age’ theme of the 1962 Seattle world fair is believed to have inspired space research and technological advancement.

Closer to home, a global poem will be beamed into space from the British pavilion at the expo site next year. The mastermind of the project was inspired by physicist Stephen Hawking’s final project to prepare a message from Earth to advanced beings in space.

The mobility section of the expo, one of three main themes that include opportunity and sustainability, will also document the UAE’s space plans.

“Hazza Al Mansouri’s historic achievement in becoming the first Emirati in space sets new heights for our nation’s achievements,” said Marjan Faraidooni, chief pavilions and exhibitions officer at Expo 2020 Dubai.

“Space exploration is set to be a key focus throughout Expo 2020 ... Our exciting space ambitions are the next stage of this journey, with preparations already well underway to chart a course to Mars.

"This demonstrates the UAE’s ambitious, progressive vision and technical excellence – ideals that also underpin Expo 2020 Dubai."

A model of Sputnik 111, the newest addition to the Soviet Pavilion in Brussels in 1958. Express / Archive Photos / Getty Images
A model of Sputnik 111, the newest addition to the Soviet Pavilion in Brussels in 1958. Express / Archive Photos / Getty Images

Pavilions designed by other countries will also engage visitors with space-related attractions and encourage them to conjure up visions of future societies.

The UK pavilion will invite visitors to submit words that will be projected on to LED screens from a sculpture that resembles a splintered cone.

UK designer Es Devlin conceptualised a constantly changing poem in English, Arabic and Chinese created by expo visitors from all walks of life.

She said the idea drew directly from one of Stephen Hawking’s final projects, the Breakthrough Message.

Hawking and his colleagues invited people around the globe to participate in a competition in 2015 to consider what message they would want to communicate as a planet should Earth one day encounter advanced civilisations in space.

“What if the UK Pavilion at Expo 2020 became a place where visitors from all over the world choose to take part in a collective global project that showcases British expertise in AI technologies and poetry while transcending national identities?” Ms Devlin said.

China's pavilion will explain how a giant satellite dish in the south-west Guizhou province listens for radio signals from outer space to detect alien life.

The size of 30 football fields, the Five-hundred-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) is the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope.

Exploring space, hunting for extra-terrestrial life and a better understanding of the origin of the universe are its high-reaching aims.

Luxembourg will also feature space content at its pavilion. The country has agreed to work with the UAE on space exploration and its pavilion will be re-purposed as a permanent space centre after the expo.

The Canadian and Belarussian pavilions will also play up aerospace innovation and space research.

Updated: October 14, 2019 02:43 PM

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