Onwards and upwards: Experts say space exploration is critical for progress on Earth
DUBAI – Global leaders from space agencies, governments and private corporations gathered at Expo 2020 Dubai for an event on Wednesday titled Space: Where the World Comes Together for Progress, to explore humanity’s sustainable expansion into space, and to consider how recent advances will increase connectivity and collaboration.
Panellists also explored the economic benefits of the space sector, its expansion, and the role governments and private enterprises can play to facilitate this.
The Blue Marble Vision, an informal framework for progress including an action-orientated plan for new cooperation, was introduced at the event, building on the day’s discussions. An initiative of the UAE Space Agency, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and event co-organisers from Sweden and Italy, the plan will be carried forward to the Space for Agenda 2030 discussions in the Sweden Pavilion on 22 October, and will inform the agenda of the Stockholm+50 conference in June 2022.
Delivering the opening address, Her Excellency Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology and Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, said:“Only by working together can we create a framework that ensures that every nation develops the right tools, technology, skills, and competencies to thrive in this new age, driving the fundamental change towards our future. Ending hunger, achieving food security and taking urgent action on climate change are contingent on using space technology partnership. Building an attractive, competitive and vibrant ecosystem for space enterprises will attract more investors and innovators – the source for research and development in a wide range of scientific fields, and the technological innovation that arises will contribute to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Speaking about the UAE, Her Excellency Sarah Al Amiri added: “To keep pace with this complex and dynamic macroeconomic landscape, we need a robust and simultaneously agile framework that enables us to serve our leaders, our country and our people… We continue to set our eyes on the stars, our path to progress has no boundaries, borders, or limitations.” Referring to the UAE’s new mission to explore the asteroid belt, she said: “We will become the first Arab nation within this region to have capabilities… which allows us to explore not only the neighbourhood and universe, but create an impact for the region at large.”
Emirati astronaut Hazza Almansoori echoed Her Excellency’s sentiments: “Expo is all about connecting minds, and creating the future, and nothing like space can create that. [It’s about] different people from different countries working together and speaking one language: science…When I went to space, the one thing that I wanted to see was my home country. But when I saw [the Earth], I realised one thing: there are no borders between countries. We are living together as humans, and we have to work together.”
In a session focused on how the space economy can be a catalyst for economic growth and human wellbeing, Alexander MacDonald, Chief Economist, NASA, spoke about the Artemis programme, which seeks to return mankind to the moon, to learn how to stay there, and to prepare for a first mission to Mars: “In Greek mythology Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo, and if the opportunity and promise of the Apollo programme was represented by the idea of ‘for all humankind’ then I believe the new promise of the Artemis programme is represented by the phrase ‘with all humankind’…. we return to the moon with an international partnership… and commercial partnerships, through which we can find new opportunities and test new technologies. This is a fruitful issue to continue to work on to ensure that we all return, as we promised when we were last there in 1972, with peace and hope for all.”
In the Launching the Careers of the Next Generation of Space Technologists session, Monica Talevi, Head of STEM Education and Outreach at the European Space Agency (ESA) added: “When talking about building a workforce we have to look at education from a very scientifically rigorous point of view. A qualified workforce in the space sector means a qualified workforce in the STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] sectors; space is just a subset of the space sector… and attracting young people to STEM disciplines using space is extremely powerful.”
Amer Al Sayegh, Senior Director of Space Engineering, Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, added: “What we did [in the UAE] is focus on knowledge transfer… In our programme, we sent a group of engineers and fresh graduates to take technology from South Korea, and then the same team gained experience and started to share their knowledge and experience with the new generation… we also took undergrad students to work in the field, on ongoing projects, and went to existing industry or industries or companies to pull them towards space projects.”
Space Week, the second of Expo 2020 Dubai’s 10 Theme Weeks, continues until 23 October, and is held in association with the UAE Space Agency and Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). It presents an array of content, discussions and more that will probe the benefits, solutions and challenges of exploring beyond our planet’s orbit.