NASA PR — Whether or not you remember the winter of 2011 as unusually cold or snowy, an adventurous team of experts will remember its intense heat, as they searched for microbial life between sand dunes in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They were searching for simple life forms that also may exist on other planets.
The United States team consisted of teachers Mike Wing and Lucinda Land, NASA space scientists Chris McKay and Jon Rask, and education specialist Matthew Reyes. Together, they embarked on a high adventure desert expedition from Feb. 18 – Mar. 4 with UAE students and teachers as part of a NASA education program, called Spaceward Bound. Developed at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., Spaceward Bound’s mission is to train the next generation of space explorers. Led by the U.S. team, local students and teachers from the Emirates were given real planetary research experience using remote, extreme environments in the UAE deserts as analogs for Mars and Saturn’s moon, Titan.
While Europe lurches from sovereign debt crisis to debt crisis, the United States struggles with a ballooning budget deficit, and investors worldwide pull back on spending, there is one area of the world that still has a mountain of funds to spend. It’s a reality could have a major effect on the path of the nascent commercial spaceflight industry in the years ahead.
Some interesting remarks from Surrey Satellite Technology Chairman Martin Sweeting, who is set to address delegates at the Global Space and Satellite Forum (GSSF) 2011 in Abu Dhabi in May:
“The Middle East region has already demonstrated a keen interest in space-based technologies and I am therefore delighted to be given the opportunity to address the delegates at this year’s GSSF. Small satellites are at the forefront of space innovation, and I believe that there are great opportunities for the region to benefit from the high-tech commercial opportunities in this growing space sector.”
While speaking to the ‘Engineer’ last November, Sir Martin made a prediction which are precisely what you would expect from a visionary. He looks forward to manned space exploration returning within the next ten years after the discovery of significant amounts of water on the Moon and, never one to miss a business opportunity, Sweeting plans to surround the Moon with small satellites to give astronauts internet and communication capabilities.
The seven-state United Arab Emirates is quickly becoming the center of the Middle East’s space effort, with agreements with Virgin Galactic for a suborbital spaceport and Bigelow Aerospace to develop an orbital spaceflight program. In the process, it is riding the crest of a new commercial wave in how human spaceflight will be conducted.
The Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST) and Bigelow Aerospace LLC, an organisation dedicated to providing affordable options for spaceflight to national space agencies and corporate clients, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to drive joint efforts to usher in a new era in human spaceflight based on innovative technologies, affordability, commercial sustainability, and strong international partnerships.
As per the MoU, EIAST and Bigelow Aerospace will explore joint efforts to establish a next-generation commercial human spaceflight programme for Dubai and the UAE, leveraging recent advances in human spaceflight. They will work to create a world-class microgravity research and development programme with a potential focus on advanced biotechnology applications, and a variety of other commercial space-related activities.
NASA’s outreach to predominantly Muslim country produced a political firestorm over the summer that, for some indiscernible reason, focused very little on the specifics of what the space agency is actually doing in that area. The National, an English language publication based in Abu Dhabi, has an update on one of the programs:
On June 1, Shamma al Qassim boarded a plane bound for the US as the first Emirati woman to become a Nasa intern. On Sunday, Reem Ketait will become the second.
Ms al Qassim, 19, along with two other Emirati students â€“ Hazza Bani Malek, 20, and Hamad Rajab, 21 â€“ spent 10 weeks training alongside Nasa engineers as part of the Educational Associates programme.
A couple of items about the United Arab Emirates and its efforts to build up a space program.
Speaking at a conference, Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud – who became the first Arab in orbit aboard the space shuttle in 1985 – praised UAE’s efforts to train its own space scientists and engineers.
Middle East supplement: UAE ready to enter the space age Flight International
Spaceflight could be the next frontier for the United Arab Emirates’ burgeoning aerospace and aviation sector. The country is already building the world’s biggest airport. Now it could be home to one of the first spaceports from which suborbital trips will be launched early next decade.