Lift off for The National Space Programme

ABU DHABI // High school and university students from across the UAE have the chance to directly shape the future of space exploration.

Two competitions giving them the opportunity to watch their experiments blast off on a rocket to the International Space Station were announced on Tuesday at the launch of The National Space Programme in Abu Dhabi.

In the initial stages of the programme, The National, Abu Dhabi Media’s English-language newspaper, has linked up during Innovation Week with the UAE Space Agency, Boeing and other public and private organisations.

The National Space Programme contests are Genes in Space, challenging high school pupils to create a DNA analysis experiment, and the Satellite Launch project, in which a university team will build a satellite.

Winners of both competitions will be flown to the US to watch their projects being launched into space.

Submissions are being accepted for Genes in Space, open to high school pupils who will design a DNA amplification experiment using the polymerase chain reaction process in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station.

The process allows researchers to produce millions of copies of a specific DNA sequence.

But students, who can work alone or in teams of up to four, do not need high-tech equipment or fancy laboratories.

They only have to design an experiment that will solve real-life space exploration problems through DNA analysis, describe it in tweetable form of 140 characters or less, and answer four questions about the experiment.

The deadline for submissions at is February 3 next year.

The five finalists will be announced at the Global Aerospace Summit on March 7 and 8 in Abu Dhabi, and will be mentored by local scientists and specialists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard as they develop their experiments.

The winner will be chosen by an expert panel of scientists, innovators and educators in May and will be invited to watch their experiments leaving Earth’s atmosphere by rocket. Their experiment will be conducted by astronauts on the International Space Station.

Mohammed Al Otaiba, Editor-in-Chief of The National, said: “Media is a key driver of innovation and The National is always keen to support initiatives that raise awareness on important areas, such as education and development.

“We’re excited to be a part of a collaboration that brings partners from different disciplines, that invites diversity and that is inclusive. The efforts of each come together for a larger purpose.

“Through this partnership, I hope we inspire young leaders to join the UAE’s fledgling space industry and inspire them to look into Stem fields as career paths options.”

Mr Al Otaiba said collaboration with industry leaders was aligned with The National’s mission to prepare the country’s innovators.

Representing one of the project’s key partners was Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency.

“Inspiring and educating the next generation of leaders is at the core of what we do,” said Dr Al Ahbabi. “It is critical that we give our future scientists, engineers and mathematicians engaging opportunities for growth, and we’re thrilled to be partnering with The National to support The National Space Programme and challenge our students to think bigger than ever before.”

HE Mohamed Ebraheem Al Mahmood, Chairman and Managing Director of Abu Dhabi Media, said “innovation is considered as one of the strategic axes in Abu Dhabi Media’s methodology, which is consistent with the national strategy for innovation.

“It is the main motivation that drives us to mobilise efforts in view of providing innovative solutions that contribute to the development and improvement of our media work, to reach all social categories.”

Mr Al Mahmood said Abu Dhabi Media had left its mark on a global level in the field of innovation by launching The National Space Programme in conjunction with the events of UAE Innovation Week.

He said that this programme would “contribute in supporting the journey of the UAE towards a knowledge-based society and supplement various sectors with the promising energy of a youth that will be responsible for building on current achievements, and for turning plans and innovative projects into reality, to the benefit of the UAE”.

The other major contributor, Boeing, launched the first Genes in Space competition in the US this year.

With an experiment that investigates why astronauts returning to Earth have compromised immune systems, a high school senior from Bedford, New York, won the inaugural contest.

She will get to see her experiment leave Earth’s atmosphere towards the International Space Station some time next year.

Having launched the first competition, Boeing will once again play a key role in the UAE’s first Genes in Space competition.

“We’re proud to work with the UAE Space Agency to bring the Genes in Space competition to the UAE and the Middle East,” said Peter McGrath, director of global sales and marketing for Boeing Space Exploration.

“Starting with a partnership equally steeped in aerospace science and education, we are confident that the UAE is on track to be a world leader across Stem fields.”

Published: November 25, 2015 04:00 AM


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