(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) The UAE has covered long distance in its race towards space, top officials have said during an event to mark the fourth anniversary of the UAE Space Agency.
With three satellite launches this year and going a step further with at least three more in 2019, the UAE is lighting a lamp in the dark for others to follow, said officials, adding that apart from these, the ambitious 2020 Emirates Mars Mission is right on track.
Dr Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills and Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, said the country has taken giant strides in journey to the space.
"We have a determined leadership and have unlimited ambition. We have managed to keep pace with the technical revolution. The UAE is now a frontrunner in space sector. All these are for the benefit of the mankind," Al Falasi said in his address.
He noted that the team at the space agency has worked to accelerate projects throughout the UAE and the region. He highlighted that the UAE Astronaut Programme, part of the National Space Programme, has attracted more than 4,000 applicants from a range of sectors.
"We stand on the cusp of realising the prestigious objective of sending an Emirati to the International Space Station, with nine candidates having reached the final evaluation stages."
No limits to ambition Meanwhile, Dr Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, director-general of the UAE Space Agency, said despite the country achieving many things in last four years, there was much to be done.
"Space sector is a new domain for the region. So to set an organisation, have regulations, recruit a team and deliver projects, even outreach programmes, international cooperation and all of this in four years, is a great achievement," he said during a media interaction.
He said the UAE's projects have received good feedback from the international space community. "They are impressed by what we are doing."
So far, one satellite has been launched this year and two more will be set off later this year.
"Next year, we will have at least three satellites. Space agency is working on four satellites with universities and one imaging and climate change satellite with the French Space Agency."
Elaborating on satellite launches, Al Ahbabi said: "Earlier in January, there was launch of YahSat's Al Yah 3, which is a communication satellite that will provide services to South America. Second one, a small education satellite, will be launched soon. The third will be Khalifa Sat, which is designed and made in the country by the UAE engineers. This is good evidence that the UAE is not only using but also making satellites. This shows the country is now in a different level in terms of capability, maturity and experience. Now, all the engineers are excited to go on to the next level."
He added: "We are closer than ever before to achieving one of our most important goals - seeing an Emirati astronaut raise our beloved flag aboard the International Space Station (ISS)."
UAE's big push in region Al Ahbabi said not many countries want to enter the space sector as it is expensive, has high risk and consumes lot of time. However, he noted such forays bring great value and develop capability of the country - a reason why the UAE is pushing ahead in the sector.
"In terms of future, we have big dreams. We think big. We are lucky to have such a visionary leadership who prepare the country for the future. We are using space sector to prepare, to educate, to inspire, to raise expectation and provide confidence. When the youth - not just in the country but in the region - see that the UAE can do all these projects, then they also gain some confidence. Otherwise, you keep them in the dark and they will go in different routes. At least, you show the light and some of them will follow. This is how the UAE is a model. The UAE starts such big projects just to show others in the region that such things are possible. The DNA is there but you need to provide the right environment and invest in people, in brains with a plan and then push."
Mars Mission 2020 Al Ahbabi added that the ambitious 2020 Emirates Mars Mission is on schedule.
"It is unusual for space projects to be on track. The Emirates Mars Mission is on track - on time and within budget - which is amazing but still we are worried. But all the projects are as per plan. With the International Astronautical Congress, next few years will be all space. Every year there will be some big news in the space sector and we will achieve all our goals," Al Ahbabi added.
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