Dubai: Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi’s groundbreaking 186-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) marks a turning point and heralds a “space renaissance” in the UAE. And for the UAE’s top business leaders, especially those in the aviation and aerospace sectors, space exploration presents a new frontier.
Rashed Al Ansari, CEO of Al Ansari Financial Services group, said: “He [Al Neyadi] He made history as the first Arab to perform a spacewalk and set the record for the longest space mission by an Arab astronaut. As we commemorate this occasion, we are proud to highlight that this historic event is the embodiment of the ambition of the founding father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. This remarkable feat not only represents a remarkable achievement, but also represents a crucial step in the UAE’s commitment to strengthening Arab civilization.”
The UAE’s investment in the space sector has already exceeded Dh22 billion (around $6 billion), including satellite communications, Earth and space exploration, data transmission, satellite broadcasting and mobile satellite communications, among others.
And according to UAE business leaders, the nation’s next step in achieving its space ambitions will benefit industries such as meteorology, energy, telecommunications, transportation, maritime, aviation and urban development.
Mohammad Badri, owner and CEO of Eros Group, said: “It is a source of great pride and achievement for the UAE. Sultan Al Neyadi’s journey into space marks a pivotal moment in the nation’s scientific and space research activities. We applaud his historic mission and eagerly anticipate further achievements in the realm of space exploration in the years to come.”
A new generation of space heroes.
Most importantly, Al Neyadi’s journey will inspire a new generation of UAE youth to pursue careers in the sector, especially as the prospect of space exploration has become a tangible reality.
The efforts of Al Neyadi and Hazzaa Al Mansoori, the first UAE astronaut to travel to space, are generating increased interest in career opportunities among UAE youth, said Mansoor Janahi, CEO and CEO of Sanad Group. a Mubadala company. He said: “The investments our nation is channeling into space missions will drive demand for pilots, engineers and technicians.”
Sanad is a provider of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services and lease financing solutions in the aerospace sector.
Additionally, Al Neyadi’s experience as a UAE Air Force pilot brings a unique perspective, highlighting the seamless progression from aviation to space exploration, Janahi said. “His experience of it emphasizes the synergy between the two domains, highlighting that skills developed in aviation are highly relevant in space missions,” Janahi said.
Increased interest in STEM programs
Janahi also said that the UAE’s space mission underlines the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. “These fields foster exceptional talent equipped with critical skills needed not only in the space sector but equally important in aviation,” he explained.
Dr Azad Moopen, Founding Chairman and CEO of Aster DM Healthcare, said: “We are immensely proud of Sultan Al Neyadi’s historic mission aboard the International Space Station, which is a major milestone in the UAE’s space journey. . “His six-month mission has been an inspiration to the youth and people of the UAE.”
In particular, higher education institutions in the UAE are experiencing growing interest from Emirati and UAE-resident students in enrolling in STEM subjects, particularly aeronautical and aerospace engineering programmes. This surge in interest aligns with the UAE’s larger space ambitions, as highlighted by Dr. Mohamed Al Musleh, assistant professor at Heriot-Watt University Dubai.
“Data science and robotics programs are key components, with an emphasis on autonomous systems. Knowledge in project management will be crucial to manage these programs, with a strong focus on communication aspects,” said Dr. Musleh. Additionally, universities have evolved to incorporate advanced technology such as AI with hybrid programs, and are seeing a 40 percent increase in admissions to robotics programs.
Hundreds of new jobs
Al Neyadi’s journey to space has ignited a fervor among our country’s youth, inspiring them to dream big and reach for the cosmos, said Ghaith Al Ghaith, CEO of Dubai airline flydubai. He said: “Just as we transformed the UAE into a global hub for travel, trade and tourism, leading by example in economic development and investing in our people and infrastructure, we are now witnessing the development of a new chapter as a leader regional in space exploration. .”
Local manufacturing of satellite components and development of expertise has already created at least 3,200 jobs, with 57 space companies and organizations operating in the country. For example, the MBZ-SAT project has played a pivotal role in the expansion of the country’s space industry. About 90 percent of its mechanical structure and 50 percent of electronic modules are now manufactured in the UAE, creating hundreds of jobs.
Space tourism is already a reality
As the UAE looks to the future, space tourism becomes an exciting new frontier in which the UAE is poised to play a pivotal role in making it a reality, Al Ghaith said.
In 2021, the UAE Ministry of Economy said it is working with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to bring space tourism flights to the UAE. And in 2019, the UAE Space Agency and Virgin Galactic and Spaceship Company (TSC) also signed a planning MoU for a pair of SpaceShipTwo vehicles and aircraft carriers that would be operated from the UAE.
“As the UAE plans to establish a thriving space tourism industry, it represents an exciting opportunity to expand our influence and contribute to the growth of the space sector,” said Sanad’s Janahi.
“With our existing infrastructure and optimal desert conditions for space projects, our potential extends beyond economic impact to significantly influence the realms of space exploration and scientific advancements,” he explained.