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Gulf News Exclusive

UAE’s top women in space sector will make amazing global mentors, says US Space Foundation COO

More talents to benefit from the Arab Space Pioneers Programme with UAESA

Shelli Brunswick speaks during ‘Your Daily Journey Through Space’ as part of The People’s Mission: Citizens in Space Exploration, Expo 2020 Dubai. (Photo Expo 2020 Dubai)
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Dubai: The UAE’s top women in space will make ‘amazing global mentors,’ according to Shelli Brunswick, Chief Operating Officer of the US Space Foundation, who is one of only 35 women worldwide to be selected by the United Nations as a mentor for its Space4Women programme.

Currently in the UAE to take part at Expo 2020 Dubai’s Space Week sessions and the US Mission to the UAE’s Winter Programme of events, Brunswick spoke to Gulf News in an exclusive interview on Monday after an outreach session at the Dubai Entrepreneurship Centre.

Female talents

Brunswick said she was impressed by the female talents in the UAE’s space sector. Having met Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology and Chairperson of the UAE Space Agency and Nora Al-Matrooshi, the first Arab woman astronaut, Brunswick said they are amazing leaders who would make amazing mentors.

“Sarah and Nora will be amazing mentors and I think the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs would be honoured to have them or anyone they recommend [from their team] as a mentor,” she said.

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“I think the UN will shortly open the programme for individuals to apply to be mentors, both men and women. It is a wonderful opportunity globally for individuals to find a mentor and a role model that is in their region that can help them with their discipline.”

Often, she said, a mentor can help one get awareness and access to training and connect with the right organisations to help women become part of the space eco system.

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“I have had wonderful mentors in my life growing up in my career. This is my way of giving back to the next generation by being a mentor … You can be a mentor at any stage of your career and mentor the next generation,” said Brunswick who brings a broad perspective and deep vision of the global space ecosystem — from a distinguished career as a space acquisition and programme management leader and congressional liaison for the U.S. Air Force to her current role, including overseeing Center for Innovation and Education, Symposium 365, and Global Alliance.

“Many times women that reach out to me are entrepreneurs looking to develop their company or looking for a transition from one industry to come into the space sector. The right mentors can help them,” she elaborated.


Pioneers Programme

Speaking about Space Foundation’s collaboration with the UAE Space Agency (UAESA), Brunswick said more regional talent stand to benefit from the Arabic version of the Arab Space Pioneers Programme, the first intensive scientific training scheme of its kind in the Arab World, jointly organised by both the entities last month.

US Space Foundation is a non-profit organisation founded in 1983 which provides a gateway for information, education and collaboration for space exploration, science and activities related to space.

Future workforce

Brunswick said the Foundation brought in 13 speakers specialised in space science, artificial intelligence, technology, robotics, engineering and space entrepreneurship etc for the virtual sessions under the Talent Track phase of the Arab Space Pioneers Programme “to create that experience of how we create the future workforce for the UAE.”

“Our goal would be to bring more programmes and content in Arabic which I think would be very beneficial [for more local and regional space enthusiasts],” she said, encouraging universities and others to explore the opportunities for future collaborations with the US Space Foundation.

“There are plenty of opportunities for Emiratis and others from the region to commercialise the Nasa patents [on space products]. There are thousands of patents at Nasa and the European Space Agency that are waiting to be commercialised by entrepreneurs.

- Shelli Brunswick, Chief Operating Officer of the US Space Foundation

Expo and space

Having given an enlightening speech at Expo 2020 Dubai on how space technology is used in various aspects of our daily life, Brunswick said she was happy to see how the Expo pavilions are promoting the space ecosystem not just during the Space Week, but throughout the world exhibition. “There are over 60 pavilions that are highlighting space. The Expo programmes are helping to provide awareness to general public that space has an opportunity for all citizens in the UAE to participate, whether they are students, entrepreneurs or people who use space technologies in daily life. So, I welcome everyone to come to the Expo, if not during the Space Week, anytime later, to explore the opportunities in the space sector.”

She said the global space economy which now stands at $447billion is expected to grow into $1 trillion by 2030 and to over $3trillion by 20240.

Nasa patent

“There are plenty of opportunities for Emiratis and others from the region to commercialise the Nasa patents [on space products]. There are thousands of patents at Nasa and the European Space Agency that are waiting to be commercialised by entrepreneurs. Emiratis can look at the patents listed on the Nasa website, find a path and apply for that patent. Organisation here like Dtec (Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus) want to help develop more entrepreneurs in the space sector.”

Hailing the UAE’s close collaborations and strategic partnerships with the US in the space sector, she said both the countries still have a lot more avenues to collaborate on.

“We can work together to return to the moon and discover solutions that will help us as we go on to Mars. We are going to get a lot of experience on the moon, but also have the ability to escape back to the earth much quicker, if there is something that goes awry. Once we are on Mars, it takes a much longer time to get back to earth depending where the planets are and how they are aligned. So we can learn what we need to learn on the moon and go on to Mars,” she opined.


Artemis programme

The US is currently leading the Artemis Programme, an international human spaceflight programme which aims to return humans to the moon, specifically the lunar south pole, by 2024.

The UAESA was amongst the first signatories of NASA’s Artemis Accords, an agreement for lunar exploration and beyond, with participation of both international partners and commercial players.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre’s Emirates Lunar Mission is set to deploy the Arab world’s first lunar rover Rashid to the moon between August and November next year.