UAE space programme a conduit for cooperation

Developing the UAE’s space programme is an essential tool in improving the country’s diplomatic relations across the region and the globe, say the project’s leaders.

Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi, director general of the UAE Space Agency. Delores Johnson / The National
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ABU DHABI // Developing the UAE’s space programme is essential for improving the country’s diplomatic relations in the region and across the globe, according to the project’s leaders.

Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi, director general of the UAE Space Agency, said such exploration has repeatedly proved a catalyst for fostering collaboration between nations.

“Space has shown to provide the correct model for cooperation,” he said.

“Certain countries might have problems here on Earth but you will see them cooperate in space,” said Dr Al Ahbabi at the launch of The National Space Programme in Abu Dhabi last week.

The continued cooperation between the Russian and US space agencies, in spite of their political differences, provided the best example of this, he said.

Earlier this year, the United States and Russia announced plans to build a new space station to replace the current International Space Station (ISS), which is due to be retired in 2024.

Peter McGrath, director of global sales and marketing for Boeing Space Exploration, said the cooperation between the US and Russia on the ISS had provided the foundation for international diplomacy over the last 20 years.

“Not one country can run the ISS and not one country should,” he said.

“It’s a great international diplomacy tool and truly a blueprint for global cooperation.”

The ISS, which combines the efforts of five space agencies, 15 countries, and serves as a microgravity research laboratory, will host the winning projects of both of the National Space Programme’s contests.

These include 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.

The National Space Programme has united The National, the UAE Space Agency, Boeing, and 10 other government agencies and corporate entities in the goal of inspiring UAE youth to take up careers in the field of science, technology, engineering and maths.

Submissions are being accepted for Genes in Space from pupils in Grades 7 to 12, at

The deadline is February 3. To find out more, follow #theuaespacestory on social media.