Sir Richard Branson presents Emirati space flag to Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi

The UAE national flag recently returned from a Virgin Galactic test flight

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An Emirati flag that was taken into space on a Virgin Galactic test flight has been presented to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi by Sir Richard Branson.

The gesture on the final day of the World Government Summit in Dubai, recognised the UAE’s growing involvement in the space industry.

“The gift is a tribute to the role played by the United Arab Emirates and its vision and approach to the space sciences,” said Mr Branson.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, met the businessman on the final day of the event.

Virgin Galactic aims to become the first company to provide commercial trips into space.

Existing costs of about $250,000 (Dh980,000) are expected to reduce to just $50,000 (Dh183,000) over the next decade as technology becomes cheaper and more reliable, it is claimed.

A test flight in December of SpaceShipTwo, carried and launched by the WhiteKnightTwo aircraft, took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

It reached an altitude of 43,000 feet, before successfully returning to Earth.

The UAE is committed to a Mars space programme, and aims to launch its Hope Probe next summer, to orbit the red planet in 2021.

On Tuesday, Mr Branson spoke at the Milken Summit in Abu Dhabi. The billionaire Virgin founder addressed issues around climate change, calling on high consuming energy firms to be slapped with a carbon tax to reinvest in clean energy projects.