UAE space chiefs meet Nasa officials to discuss human spaceflight

Through the Artemis programme, the first woman and next man could land on the lunar surface by 2024

Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology and chairperson of the UAE Space Agency, meets with Nasa's Deputy Administrator, Pam Melroy, at the International Astronautical Congress on Tuesday. Photo: UAE Space Agency
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The UAE Space Agency has held discussions with Nasa about sending astronauts back to the Moon's surface within this decade.

The two agencies discussed the Artemis programme, human spaceflight, climate change research and planetary science.

Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, met Nasa’s deputy administrator Pam Melroy on the sidelines of a major space conference in Dubai on Tuesday.

“It was an honour to meet with Sarah Al Amiri and leaders from the UAE Space Agency and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, our hosts for the International Astronautical Congress,” Ms Melroy said.

It was an honour to meet with Sarah Al Amiri and leaders from the UAE Space Agency and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, our hosts for the International Astronautical Congress
Pam Melroy, Nasa

“We discussed human space flight, climate change research, Nasa’s Artemis, planetary science and the future.”

UAE astronauts have previously expressed an interest in joining the Artemis programme.

Nora Al Matrooshi, the first Arab female astronaut, and Mohammed Al Mulla said they were keen on becoming part of the programme at a press conference earlier this year.

Through the Artemis programme, Nasa aims to send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface by 2024.

The long-term plan is to build a lunar-orbiting space station, called Lunar Gateway, and use the Moon as a base, so the first astronauts can go to Mars from there.

Nasa hopes to launch a flight without crew to the Moon in February, sending its Orion spacecraft aboard the Space Launch System — one of the world’s most powerful rockets — around the lunar orbit.

The UAE has expanded its partnership with Nasa in the past few years. It signed the Artemis Accords for responsible lunar exploration last year and an agreement on training four Emirati astronauts at Nasa’s space centre in Houston.

Mike Gold, the former acting associate administrator for Nasa's Office of International and Interagency Relations, told The National then in an exclusive interview that the UAE’s signing of the accords would pave the way for sending the first Emirati to the Moon.

“The UAE can, and we hope will, become a strong and robust partner in the Artemis programme,” said Mr Gold, referring to the project that seeks to establish a human base on the Moon.

“We look forward to collaborating not only on lunar rovers, but on other forms of science and orbiters, and eventually human space flight as well. The UAE is not only ambitious, but it follows ambitions with funding and actions, which is why they are such an excellent partner for us to join in this unprecedented journey of discovery.”

Nasa’s Artemis programme and the Lunar Gateway have attracted many international partnerships.

A Canadian astronaut is part of the Artemis 2 flight, which would be the first flight that returns a man and the first woman to lunar orbit since the Apollo missions.

The European Space Agency is building the International Habitation module for the gateway, while Japan has agreed to provide life support capabilities and additional space for crew on the module.

Apart from sending Emirati astronauts to the Moon, there are also opportunities for the UAE to enhance its engineering capabilities under the Artemis programme.

The International Astronautical Congress is taking place at the Dubai World Trade Centre until October 29.

Heads of space agencies, policymakers and private space companies are attending the event, which is being hosted by an Arab country for the first time since it began in 1950.

The UAE Space Agency also held meetings with the Indian Space Agency, Brazil and Luxembourg on Tuesday.

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Updated: October 26, 2021, 11:11 AM