Abu Dhabi: Young students in the UAE will now have the opportunity to contribute towards the country’s space sector with the launching of the new iShuttle online portal, allowing them to contribute their ideas and solutions to some of the many challenges that comes with space exploration.
The initiative was launched by the UAE Space Agency on Tuesday, as the agency looks to have more public engagement with the country’s space sector. The iShuttle programme will be open for all residents to take part in, and will also include challenges created by the UAE Space Agency, which, will also award participants who come up with the best solutions for each challenge.
“Encouraging students to enter science, technology, engineering and math fields is a key goal of the UAE Space Agency and a priority of the UAE Vision 2021 to ensure that the UAE develops the human capital necessary to create a world leading knowledge economy,” said Dr Ahmad Abdullah Humaid Bel Houl Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and the Chairman of the UAE Space Agency.
“We seek to prepare and nurture generations of talented UAE nationals to become leaders in the space industry and its related technological fields,” he added.
Meanwhile, Dr Mohammad Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency, said the online portal would be an effective way of involving young and talented people in the space sector.
“We are using this initiative to improve the awareness of space and to open the doors to find talented people. There are so many talented people out there but we don’t know where they are, through this platform we will be able to find them.
“I am sure there are so many bright students out there, and so we are trying to pass the message that there is a platform for people to come and get involved, and from our side we are ready to help them stand on their feet,” he added.
Al Ahbabi said the initiative would see several different scientific experiments being carried out, including some that the UAE Space Agency will help facilitate and coordinate along other international space organisations.
UAE satellite launches in 2018
Al Ahbabi also spoke on other key developments for the UAE’s space sector in 2018, including the upcoming launch of the Yahsat Satellite on January 25.
“The launch of Yahsat will take place on January 25, it is a large state of the art communication satellite that will serve South America and West Africa,” he said. “So just imagine that a company based here in the UAE is going to be serving people in the Amazon providing broadband internet, and connecting remote sites, schools, clinics and hospitals,” he added.
Al Ahbabi said that another satellite, KhalifaSat, would be launched in Mid-2018.
Al Ahbabi also spoke about the UAE’s ambitious astronaut programme, which plans to have four Emirati full time astronauts ready for space missions by 2021.
“We will select four nationals who will be trained to become astronauts, the training will take around two to three years, after which the first astronauts will be ready to be launched to the International Space Station. We are targeting the launch in 2021, when the UAE celebrates its 50th anniversary,” he said.
Al Ahbabi said that over 2000 applications had been received so far for the astronauts programme.
“The people who are applying are qualified [professionals] … They are pilots, engineers and doctors. I heard we even had one applicant who was 60 years old.”