At the time of the first lunar landing, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration was using the most advanced technology. Today, most people in the UAE have more computing power in their mobile phones than was available to the American astronauts back then.
Space exploration is one of the greatest catalysts for innovation in the 21st century and squarely aligns with the UAE’s competitiveness strategy. As the UAE Space Agency celebrates its third anniversary today, we are proud to have developed the largest space programme in the region and remain dedicated to growing the sector, in line with the objectives of the UAE Vision 2021.
Underpinning our aspirations in space is an education system that creates a sustainable, globally competitive economy led by highly-skilled and highly educated Emiratis.
The Ministry of Education is committed to realising this vision by expanding research and development as well as innovation opportunities across universities, fostering greater collaboration with the private sector and improving the quality of tertiary education, with the overall objective of preparing our graduates for the future. The competitiveness of the country relies on the competitiveness of its people and nowhere is this more evident than in our goals for space exploration.
I also have the distinct honour of serving as Chairman of the UAE Space Agency. Just as higher education pushes our boundaries, so do our aspirations in space. As with bolstering our higher education system, our ability to explore space reaps benefits beyond the immediate task – it creates a virtuous cycle.
We recognise that space exploration is a necessity not only because of its tangible benefits to our everyday lives, but because of its potential to inspire and uplift mankind in ways we can only imagine. Satellite technology, for example, has been instrumental in weather forecasting, communications and broadcasting as well national security enhancements, let alone expanding our knowledge of the earth and universe. Now Mars offers the next frontier in space exploration and is a key strategic initiative of the UAE Space Agency.
The Emirates Mars Mission will be the first Arab mission to the Red Planet and aims to provide a truly global picture of the Martian atmosphere, from understanding its climate dynamics to the escape of hydrogen and oxygen. Once the Hope probe reaches Mars in 2021 and begins to gather this information, we will share our findings with more than 200 scientific institutions and education and research centres for analysis, allowing the UAE to lead the way in creating new knowledge about the universe.
These ambitions for our space programme have and will continue to inspire Emirati youth to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics, providing the UAE with the skilled manpower and capacity to conduct research and development that will advance space exploration. Furthermore, the possibility for greater discovery and innovation in space will motivate our young people to build the necessary expertise so that they may contribute to creating a brighter future for all of us.
In our efforts to be one of the most innovative nations in the world, higher education and space exploration will work hand-in-hand to secure the UAE’s future. Together, they will drive sustainable economic development, help diversify our economy and elevate our competitiveness, thus ensuring the long-term prosperity of our great nation.
Dr Ahmad Belhoul is the UAE’s Minister of State for Higher Education and newly appointed Chairman of the UAE Space Agency