Be more open with space knowledge, UAE official says at World Government Summit

Omran Sharaf, who led the Emirates' Mars mission, believes information should be available to emerging nations

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Experienced space players should share knowledge to help emerging nations in the sector, a UAE government official has said.

Omran Sharaf, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation for Advanced Science and Technology, said space organisations should not only sell services, but also “share knowledge openly” with emerging nations.

Mr Sharaf, who led the UAE’s mission to Mars, said that some countries had the opportunity to experiment more in space because of limited rules, but new players have to work in a different environment.

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If I'm an emerging space nation ... don't come and force me, corner me and ask me to buy the operating system

Omran Sharaf

The new space era has more international guidelines, as governments and companies play a larger role and explore areas such as space mining, space tourism, private space stations and privately-led missions to the Moon.

Mr Sharaf was speaking on Monday at the first day of the World Government Summit in Dubai, during a panel session titled Space and Planet: The Universal Race to Save Earth.

“If I'm an emerging space nation that doesn't have, let's say, a system that's able to de-orbit, don't come and force me, corner me and ask me to buy the operating system,” he said.

“It will limit my innovation. Share with me the knowledge, tell me how to build it.”

More countries are requiring satellite operators to install de-orbiting technology in their spacecraft to bring it closer to a planet’s atmosphere, where it would either burn up or stay out of the way of other objects.

Mr Sharaf said that his Mars mission team followed all regulations, even voluntary ones, to ensure the Hope probe operates and expires safely.

He said that they met all of the planetary protection guidelines, a series of principals that aim to prevent biological contamination.

Mr Sharaf, who is the current chairman of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, said that even though the process made the design of the craft more complicated, they wanted to follow the rules.

“It's a voluntary standard that you can take, however, we decided to follow it since day one,” he said.

“Did it add more complications to the designs? Yes, because you have more requirements … the more technical requirements, the more complicated things get, because you have to verify it and there are the tests.”

The UAE worked with three American universities to make the Hope probe mission a success.

Yana Gevorgyan of the Group on Earth Observations was also on the panel.

She said that this was the time to be “creating more opportunities” for countries in space.

“We need to absolutely recognise that our world is disparate,” she said.

“Some countries have continuously done well for themselves, others are emerging as space nations and are beginning to acquire space capabilities or are developing their own.

“There are also those communities that don't have time for that. We're talking about the large ocean states — those guys are never going to develop their own space programmes.

“Yet, they are the ones who rely on partnerships to provide them with information and knowledge to take care of not just their land, but also their culture, just for protection and survival.”

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Updated: February 13, 2023, 3:20 PM