How Is the UAE Mars Mission Changing the Middle East's Education Sector?

Published July 20th, 2020 - 03:00 GMT
How Is the UAE Mars Mission Changing the Middle East's Education Sector?
This thoroughly planned accomplishment is only the first among the UAE's aspiration to embark on extensive scientific research. (AFP; Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

The 20th of July 2020 has been a historic day in the UAE, as it witnessed the launch of the Middle East's first spacecraft "Hope" tasked with exploring the red planet. The unprecedented endeavor is now generating a whole set of new interests amongst Emiratis and other Arab nations, who realized that they can finally reach the space.

The Emirati successful venture isn't as new as many people would think. For over a decade now, the country has been founding several space institutes one step at a time so it could reach this latest milestone.

In 2006, the Dubai government established The Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST). Three years later, the UAE government established the Earth Observation Space Center in Abu Dhabi, through which it launched several satellites that orbited around planet Earth, the same year in which the United Arab Emirates Space Agency was created.

Since 2014, the UAE has launched DubaiSat, Yah-sat series, Nayif, and the KhalifaSat which was built by the Emirates from scratch.

In 2015, Dubai created the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre and became even closer to the big achievement it just celebrated; to be "a leading world-class center for space research and exploration". 

Through partnerships with the National Centre of Space Studies of France and the UK Space Agency and after assembling several teams of the brightest engineers, the UAE has finally been able to take part in building a car-sized spacecraft before eventually launching it to Mars, in the first Arab interplanetary mission ever.

Tasked with producing the first global map of the Martian atmosphere, the unmanned Hope mission is supposed to reach Mars by February 2021 to orbit the red planet for one full Martian year (about 686 days); continuing to inspire so many Emiratis and Arabs for more space-related missions, and intrigue the Arab interest in exploring life beyond our planet.

This thoroughly planned accomplishment is only the first among the UAE's aspirations to embark on extensive scientific research so it can be the region's space hub in the coming years; an ambition that reminds the world of centuries-old Arab studies and explorations in the space field.

In July 2018, Khaleej Times reported that the UAE Space Agency is working hard to get Emirati students excited about majoring in astronomy and other space-related fields, through hosting astronauts to give lectures in schools and universities and setting summer camps and class trips to research centers.

Additionally, the agency started several collaborations with local universities to establish research centers, investing millions of Dirhams for this endeavor. 

UAE schools and universities are increasingly offering space science courses to help students develop a better understanding of what building and launching spacecrafts and satellites entail, hoping that it will inspire many of them to specialize in this newly-emerging sector.

In 2018, the American University of Sharjah started offering students the opportunity to study Astrophysics and Space Science for four full years, including practical training and internships at the country's space research centers and agencies.

Additionally, the Abu Dhabi-based United Arab Emirates University announced a new program a few months ago, granting graduates an MSc. in Space Science. A similar program is offered by the University of Sharjah, enabling students to acquire an MSs degree in Astronomy and Space Sciences.

This fast and dedicated Emirati effort into contributing to space studies and exploration has also accelerated other Middle Eastern countries' interest in the field. 

In 2016, Egypt's Beni Suef University agreed to establish the faculty of navigation sciences and space technology, in addition to the country's successful manufacturing and launch of several EgyptSat satellites, in an effort to train dozens of Egyptian researchers and engineers so they set a solid foundation to accomplish the country's space aspirations. 

By the end of 2019, Egypt's National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences announced plans to send the first Egyptians to the International Space Station by 2026. 

Within the 2030 Vision Plan put by Saudi Arabia to diversify its economic resources, the country is trying to attract young Saudis and encourage them to study and receive training in astronomy and space studies so they become amongst the country's space pioneers.

In 2018, the Kingdom founded the Saudi Space Agency which launched a series of programs and collaborations; hoping to draw opportunities that help in exploring outer space,

most notably the Space Generations Programme initiative, which according to the director-general of the Ajyal Space Program's statement to Saudi Gazette "has a comprehensive set of strategic goals and visions that aim to instill inspiration in the new generations to become pioneers in space sciences, to build and develop the Kingdom’s coming generations of space scientists."

Do you think Mission Hope will continue to change the way Middle Easterners think about science? Who will be the next Arab country in space to make world news headlines?

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