Future space exploration in focus as thousands descend on Dubai for summit

The world's largest space conference will get under way on Monday

The heads of major global space agencies plus Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin will be in Dubai to look at the future of space exploration this week.

It is the first time an Arab country is hosting the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), which was founded in 1950.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, shared a message online ahead of the event.

"We welcome all in the UAE and support alliances and initiatives that take humankind scientifically to the farthest of planets and galaxies," he wrote.

The conference is being held at the Dubai World Trade Centre from October 25 to 29 under the theme "Inspire, Innovate and Discover for the Benefit of Mankind".

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Only by working together we can create a future framework to ensure every nation has the means to explore the universe
Salem Butti Salem Al Qubaisi, UAE Space Agency

Saudi Arabia and Egypt are among some of the participating countries that will speak about their space programmes.

“We’ve brought many Arab states [to the event], especially those who’ve recently launched their space programmes,” Adnan Al Rais from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre told The National.

“Saudi Arabia will have a huge exhibition in the main area. Egypt is participating for the first time and they will have their own stand.

“We feel really proud that we’ve brought the conference here and we’ve managed to attract Arab space agencies and authorities to be part of the event.”

Saudi Arabia allocated $2.1 billion for its space programme under the Vision 2030 economic diversification plan.

The kingdom has plans to send exploratory missions to the Moon and Mars as part of its new space strategy.

ispace engineers assemble the HAKUTO-R lander, which will take the UAE's Rashid rover to the lunar surface in 2022. Courtesy: ispace

Egypt’s space activities are also on the rise, as the country focuses on manufacturing satellites and sending the first Egyptian astronaut to the International Space Station.

Regionally, the UAE is leading the way in space activities, with several achievements to its name.

The Emirates sent the first Arab astronaut to the space station and placed a spacecraft around Mars. It also has plans to land on the Moon, explore the asteroid belt, perform a fly-by of Venus and land on an asteroid.

Several mission updates will be provided by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre during the week-long event.

The launch vehicle the UAE has chosen to send its MBZ-Sat satellite into space will be announced, as well as new partnerships for its Emirates Lunar Mission.

MBZ-Sat, named after Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, is an advanced high-resolution imaging satellite.

Usage will cover analysis, environmental monitoring, navigation, to help assess the severity of natural disasters and plan relief efforts.

A replica of the Japanese lunar lander that would deliver UAE’s Rashid rover to the lunar surface will also be on display.

More details on the country’s new Space Ventures programme, a platform that enables partnerships with private space companies, are expected to be announced at IAC.

More than 4,000 visitors are expected to attend the conference, with global space players such as Blue Origin also taking part.

Heads of space agencies, including from the US, Russia, India and the European Space Agency, will be speaking during a plenary session to provide updates on their national space programmes.

Salem Butti Salem Al Qubaisi, director general of the UAE Space Agency, said it was “humbling” that the global space community was gathering in Dubai.

“The UAE may be a young nation, but it has big ambitions for science, technology and space exploration,” he said.

“Our path to create a global competitive national space agency dates back to the 1970s. During the early years of our nation, the late Sheikh Zayed, met the Nasa team responsible for an Apollo Moon landing.

“As we enter this new era of space exploration, we firmly believe in the values of co-operation and partnership.

"Only by working together we can create a future framework to ensure every nation has the means to explore the universe.”

Updated: October 25th 2021, 3:00 AM