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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

New UAE space association to be created next week

UAE Space Agency will gather students, teachers, industry, operators and enthusiasts under one umbrella

Alia Al Mansoori at the Apollo/Saturn V Center during her visit to the Kennedy Space Center in August. Alia will be among students, space experts and agencies to join a UAE space association that will be formed next week. Scott A. Miller for The National
Alia Al Mansoori at the Apollo/Saturn V Center during her visit to the Kennedy Space Center in August. Alia will be among students, space experts and agencies to join a UAE space association that will be formed next week. Scott A. Miller for The National

A UAE space association that will build a database of students, agencies and enthusiasts who can put forward ideas that could inform policies will be formed next week.

The first meeting of the Young Space Leaders programme will be held by members of the local space community and Emirati Genes in Space winner Alia Al Mansouri. The meeting will gather up to 30 university students, industry experts, enthusiasts and young people. Members will include the UAE Space Agency, industry, operators, the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), Yahsat, Thuraya and space enthusiasts, along with those who started their own observatories in different emirates.

“We’re trying to build a database for everyone who is interested in space,” said Sheikha Al Maskari, the UAE Space Agency’s chief innovation officer. “It will be a gathering of professionals and youngsters. Alia is an inspiration to a lot of kids that age so it’s about trying to understand what happens in space and we want to utilise her success and build on it to create many Alias because there are so many out there, we just need to tap and discover.”

On Tuesday, Ms Al Maskari said many people in the country are interested in space but do not have a platform to gather them all together.

"We’re going to talk about topics of interest to the space industry, talk about the youth, capture what they say for discussions on a higher level at the agency and see if we can, through policies or any type of support, support what they want. Their voice is heard but we don’t have a proper body that governs the whole thing so we want to have this informal association where they can discuss matters, be our ambassadors to space and even go to schools for the visits.”

Interest from school pupils has grown overwhelmingly, she said.

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“We do a lot of school visits which have been very successful but we’ve been having a hard time keeping up with the demand so we’re trying to gather schools together,” Ms Al Maskari said. “Everyone wants to know about space, even hospitals ask us to come give talks to their patients. So we want to create that community where they support us and we support them.”

The UAE is pushing to get more of its youth involved in the field, with projects like cube sat and the Mars Mission attracting young people.

“Today, we’re working on our next cube satellite and we have more students – around 15 – from five universities and around 16 engineers,” said Amel Amin, manager of the Nanosatellite Outreach programme at MBRSC.

“Most of them are under 25. More than 75 per cent of our engineers are girls and we’re currently in the preliminary design review phase so hopefully the next batch will join the centre or the space sector in the UAE to help the sustainable development of the country’s space sector.”

The Emirates Mars Mission team is also working on serving the youth of the UAE and the Arab region.

“Mars is a tool for us to achieve much bigger goals,” said Omran Sharaf, the centre’s project manager for the Hope Probe mission. “To do that, we need to import, gain and transfer knowledge into the UAE. We’re doing that by partnering up with different academic institutes around the world, including the University of Colorado, Boulder, Arizona State University and University of California, Berkeley. Local universities are also included within the mission."

Within two years, the team was able to reach more than 26,000 students, professors, teachers and people interested in space, technology and science.

“We’re bringing the existing academic sector in the UAE closer to other players around the world who play a significant role when it comes to Mars exploration,” he said. “We’re trying to develop what’s existing to the next level and there’s been a rise in students in maths, physics and chemistry as universities are introducing new curriculum focused on science too, which is good.”

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