x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 25 November 2017

NASA, ESA veterans inspire Zayed University students

Lecture focused on future space exploration 

Kathy Laurini from Nasa speaks to the Zayed University students on Wednesday. Pawan Singh / The National
Kathy Laurini from Nasa speaks to the Zayed University students on Wednesday. Pawan Singh / The National

Zayed University students got a glimpse into the future of space exploration on Wednesday from Nasa and the European Space Agency veterans.

The officials met with College of Natural and Health Sciences students in the women’s campus to discuss the roles of their respective agencies and the future of astronautics.

“Mars is always the driving long-term goal,” said Kathy Laurini, Nasa’s ‎senior advisor for exploration and space operations who has worked for the agency for 35 years.

Ms Laurini commended the leaders of the UAE for having the vision and focus to support and help pioneer the exploration of Mars.

Reaching the Red Planet has been a driving force of the UAE since the Space Agency was founded in 2014 and teamed up with the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre) to launch the Emirates Mars Mission. The mission will see the historic launch of the space probe, Hope, that will reach Mars in 2021, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the UAE’s founding. The country’s leaders have also set out the ambitious goal of building the first human settlement in Mars by 2117.

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“It is growing very fast, it is very focused,” Bernhard Hufenbach, head of the European Space Agency strategic planning and outreach office for space exploration, said of UAE’s space efforts. “You see that the strong leadership and a clear vision help to focus your investment and move forward. It seems you have the resolve, you have the vision, and the space technology developing capabilities is pretty impressive.”

Ms Laurini said Mars’ similarities with Earth makes it an obvious choice for further examination.

“It had an atmosphere at one point in time, what happened to that? It had water at one point in time, what happened to that? Was life ever on Mars? Is there life there today? Those are examples of very high impact science questions that cause us to want to send humans there,” Ms Laurini told the students. “And also the idea of expanding the human race. This planet is something that we need to take good care of, but the future of the human race will be a multi-planet species. This is really the first step in understanding what it takes to be on another planet.”

Khaled Al Hashmi, director of Space Missions, Science and Technology at the UAE Space Agency, said he hoped the discussion helped inspire and motivate the students.

“We want to inspire them about space because the Space Agency is keen to develop the space sector,” said Al Hashmi. “We want to encourage students to focus on the stem education. We want them to be aware of the international space program and also the UAE space program because we think there are huge opportunities for the new generation to get into space. The opportunity did not exist before, but now, space is huge. You have research and development opportunities, you have technology, you have science, so it’s a wide, wide sector.”