Q&A with Her Excellency Sarah bint Yousif Al Amiri at Expo 2020 Dubai’s Space Week
DUBAI – Q&A with Her Excellency Sarah bint Yousif Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology, Chair of the UAE Space Agency and the Emirates Scientists Council, and the Deputy Project Manager of the Emirates Mars Mission, at Expo 2020 Dubai’s Space Week.
Running until 23 October, Space Week at Expo 2020 Dubai presents an array of content, discussions and more that will probe the benefits, solutions and challenges of exploring beyond our planet’s orbit.
Why is investment in space technologies and exploration so important for the UAE and the rest of the world?
The space sector overall provides potential for exploration and advancing science and technology. During our daily lives, we use space more than we think we do. There’s a lot of services that are reliant on it, from navigation services to our understanding of our environment [and] our weather when we step outside the door – all comes from space technologies and the advancements in space, be it exploration or in technological advancements in satellites. As we continue moving forward as a nation, the space sector is one of the vital industries that the UAE is invested in, not only to develop capabilities and capacities in science and technology, but also to advance our manufacturing capability centres.
Space technology is one of the key drivers for both societal change, environmental implications, and also for the betterment of their economies, and we see that expressed quite extensively through the various pavilions at Expo 2020 where space is a theme. And if we look at what connects our minds and what connects people around the world, it is our Earth. Space allows that humble perspective of how we are one, as a species.
How do important events such as Space Week and Expo 2020 raise awareness of the role of space exploration and technology in tackling some of the most pressing challenges of our time, such as climate change.
Bringing platforms such as Expo together with Space Week allows us to speak to people from various backgrounds who are working on various portfolios and platforms to ensure that the space sector is advancing in a way that supports development in other sectors. We see it also through the programme that we launched at the UAE Space Agency, where you can enter into the space sector without owning a satellite because there’s a wealth of data out there. Our new programme is actually instigating people and companies and institutions and researchers to bring forward ideas on how to have more food sustainability through the utilisation of satellite data, and also on how do we commit to our climate change [agenda] and ensure that we are continuously addressing it, utilising satellite data.
Nora Al Matrooshi is something of a hero in the UAE, being the first Emirati woman to train as an astronaut. Has her achievement led to an uptake in interest from women and young people in the UAE in the space sector?
We are blessed to be in a nation where women do comprise a large proportion of our space sector. Our Emirates Mars Mission science team is 80 per cent women. The team that was behind the development of the Emirates Mars Mission in a leadership role was 50 per cent women. These are all unprecedented numbers not just in the space sector in the UAE, but in the space sector globally. We see the selection of female astronauts as a continuation of that.
Women are a vital part of the development of the UAE as a whole, not necessarily criteria or a quota that we live up to. We continue to see more uptake from both girls and boys and more interest in science and technology. As we move forward, bringing space and various other areas that are very exciting for children alive, inspires and allows them to see avenues of opportunities once they grow up.