Since late 2019, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken pride in possessing one of the fastest-growing, highly advanced and well-regulated space sectors in the world. Governed by Federal Law No.12 of 2019, implemented with regards to the National Space Policy of the UAE, the space sector of the nation is recognized as being the largest in the Middle East in terms of both diversity, and investment (more than AED 20 billion of national investment according to the SGAC). Recent developments in this specific sector of the UAE might turn the page to a new chapter of official recognition and higher standing of the country in the international world of space science.
2024 Mission to the Moon
A new strategy on 26th September 2020 was approved by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. It was decided that the UAE would send the first Arab mission to the moon by 2024 as a part of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) 2021-2031 strategy launch. The main objectives associated with this strategy is to boost the expansion of the global competitiveness of the country and engage in strategic partnerships to improve the space sector further. This would result in the creation of an advanced level of Emirati potential, not only in the space sector but also in other related fields, strengthening the status of the UAE regionally and globally.
Ongoing Missions of the MBRSC
The main missions undertaken by the MBRSC so far are the:-
Building and operating of earth observation satellites.
UAE Astronaut Programme, to prepare future Emirati astronauts and motivate the youth to pursue space science and technology.
Development of the Emirates Mars Mission and the Mars Hope Probe. This mission expects the Hope Probe to reach the orbit of Mars by 2021 and gather key scientific information about the atmosphere of the red planet.
Development of the Mars 2117 vision which aims at building a human colony on Mars.
In addition to this, the announcement of the 2024 mission to the moon could possibly be a major step in intensifying the reputation of the UAE in the world of space and technology.
After reviewing the 10-year plan of the MBRSC, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum stated his plan to establish “specialized satellite development programmes” along with the revelation of new space missions: one of these being the 2024 mission. Assuming that there are more space missions to be made known to the public, it is important to answer one question; Why has the space sector been of major significance to the UAE in recent times?
Why Focus on the Space Sector?
One of the reasons the UAE has made it a priority to focus on its space sector is due to the 2071 Centennial Plan of the country which is a “comprehensive government programme” that aims to enhance the reputation of the UAE government on a global level. This plan consists of four axes, which should result in the country having the best government in the world, the best economy in the world, the best education in the world, and the happiest society in the world. In order to understand how the present space sector fits into the UAE Centennial Plan of 2071, it is beneficial to refer to the Summary of the National Space Strategy 2030.
The purpose of the National Space Strategy 2030 reiterates the UAE National Space Policy of 2016, depicting the areas of focus with relation to the space sector of the country. The image below portrays the correlation between the National Space Strategy 2030 and the UAE Centennial Plan of 2071.
Source: UAE Space Agency
*Note: The horizontal axis represents the areas of focus of the 2030 Strategy. The vertical axis represents the four axes of the Centennial Plan 2071 and the aims of each axis.
As is made clear from the above tabular image, the National Space Strategy 2030 is working to achieve every objective of the Centennial Plan 2071 four decades before its completion. This would make it wise for the UAE to centre its time and resources in the space sector, which has the highest chance of developmental success and may positively affect other sectors as well.
The 2024 Emirates Lunar Mission, although not as huge as the Mars Mission undertaken by the MBRSC, could possibly play a key role in providing a foundation for the UAE to fulfil its Centennial Plan through the focus areas of the National Space Strategy.
The Future of the UAE in the Space Sector
Echoing the desired future of the country, the Vice President expressed his confidence in the present sustainable space programmes to advance the standing of the UAE in all other sectors and bring in fresh talent. For the benefit of humanity itself, the esteemed leader believes that sharing the expertise of the UAE with the Middle East region and building global partnerships for the exchange of knowledge could bring about an onset of major developments in space and technology sciences. It is evident that the 2024 Emirates Lunar Mission is a part of the gateway to achieving these goals considering that every small step contributes to a bigger future for the country and in turn, for the world.