The UAE Space Agency hosted on Tuesday, November 19th the “Women in Space” conference at Dubai Air Show 2019. The conference convened various experts and decision makers in the global space sector at the Space Pavilion to discuss the importance of gender diversity, capacity building, and the use of advanced technologies for the evolution of the global space industry.
Various panel discussions were organised involving high-profile speakers from the UAE Space Agency. Speakers included Dr Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills and Chairman of the UAE Space Agency; Dr Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency; Naser Al Rashedi, Director of Space Policy and Regulations at the UAE Space Agency; Dr Fatima Yahya Al Aydaroos, Space Science Expert at the UAE Space Agency; and Heyam Al Blooshi, Design Engineer at the UAE Space Agency.
Diversity is the key to the future of space exploration, both for the UAE and globally, according to the raft of international keynote speakers.
Dr Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi highlighted the role of women in the development of the space sector, stating, “We are incredibly proud of the fact that more than 45% of our national space sector is made up of women. While the fact remains that women are underrepresented in STEM fields around the world, here in the UAE we have seen the role of women grow across the industry, which contributes to the rapid growth and incredible success of the UAE’s space sector.”
Under a panel titled “Education and the Role of STEM in Space – Capacity Building for Industry Creation,” Dr Al Falasi highlighted the importance of STEM education and raising the young generation’s awareness about the space industry. The panel was moderated by Dr Bahjat Yousef, Special Advisor to the President of Zayed University. Strata CEO Ismail Ali Abdulla and CEO of Defence, Space and Security at Boeing Leanne Caret also took part in the panel, providing insightful thoughts on the subject.
“It is essential to establish a link between education and space, which is vital for maximising the value of the space sector in the UAE. During the recent successful launch of Hazza Al Mansouri to the International Space Station, he was constantly in touch with young Emirati students to raise their awareness of the space sector and inspire them to follow his journey. The support that came from Emirati youth promises another generation of brilliant scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and astronauts,” Dr Al Falasi added.
Meanwhile, Dr Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency, participated in a panel titled “The Future of Space – Gender Diversity and Sustainability,” along with Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs; Jean-Yves Le Gall, President of the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales; and Sarah bint Yousif Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences. The panel, which was moderated by Nawal Al Hosany, Permanent Representative of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), discussed the role of gender diversity in driving the sustainability of the space sector, which is crucial for the growth of the sector.
Dr Al Ahbabi said, "We believe that empowering women is important in contributing to the sustainability of both Earth and Space. In the last couple of years, we saw two Emirati space organisations – the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre and the UAE Space Agency – win the 3G Diversity Award, which highlights the UAE space sector’s commitment to diversity and sustainability on a global level."
Furthermore, in a panel titled “Unlocking Value from Space Technology and Enabling Industry Benefit,” Naser Al Rashedi, Director of Space Policy and Regulations at the UAE Space Agency, stressed how space technologies can contribute to the development of different industries and the achievement of sustainability, highlighting the role that the UAE’s space policy plays in supporting space projects.
Dr Fatima Yahya Al Aydaroos, Space Science Expert at the UAE Space Agency, took part in a panel titled “Going Beyond Big Data with Earth Observation,” along with Dr Hala Al Jassar from the Department of Physics at Kuwait University; Will Marshall, Co-founder of Planet Labs; Adnan Al Rais, Senior Director of the Remote Sensing Department at MBRSC; and Diana Alsindy, Propulsion Development Engineer at Virgin Orbit.
During the panel, Al Aydaroos showed how developing space technologies and proper infrastructure are essential for tackling different environmental challenges. She also emphasised the importance of regulation and having secure platforms for Earth observation.
During the conference, four aspiring young space explorers and one select educator were awarded the Astronaut Al Worden "Endeavour" Scholarship, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the UAE Space Agency and Kallman Worldwide last month. The selected applicants will spend a week at the US Space and Rocket Centre’s renowned Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, where they will get a chance to gain hands-on astronaut training experience.
Dubai Air Show is considered one of the largest and most important aerospace events in the world and had its first exhibition in 1986. It provides a world-class exhibition showcasing the latest and greatest in military, general, and commercial aviation. The 2019 edition of the exhibition is set to be the Dubai Air Show’s biggest show ever with 1,300 exhibitors, global media representation, and 165 aircrafts on display.