The UAE and Saudi Arabia bring more than funds to the space programs they are part of. Social media critics don't seem to get that. Image Credit: WAM

Whenever Gulf astronauts embark on scientific missions to the International Space Station (ISS), the GCC states face targeted campaigns questioning the feasibility of these. Or deriding them as mere formalities due to their reliance on foreign technologies.

Such comments on social media tend to undermine the significance of the Gulf's endeavors, which align with global trends on economic, scientific, and environmental issues crucial for the future of humanity. To address some of the criticisms or misconceptions surrounding these missions, it is important to emphasize the value of space science, including its economic substance.

One commentator highlights the high cost of these missions as if the GCC countries bear the burden alone. In reality, other countries bear significant costs due to the diversity and continuity of their space activities. Moreover, the UAE and Saudi Arabia only cover the costs associated with their respective requirements.

Space missions cannot be carried out for free. Just as one has to pay for an airplane ticket, there are costs associated with launching missions into space.

Did you check space tourism costs?

The cost of space missions are high for all, encompassing expenses such as the rocket’s manufacturing, astronaut suits, specialized food, and sleeping arrangements. Recently, the price tag for individual space tourism trips was announced at $55 million for just 8 days. Despite this astronomical cost, many well-to-do individuals have already booked.

In the case of Gulf space missions led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the objectives extend far beyond mere tourism into the outer space. These missions are centered around conducting scientific and environmental experiments with long-term implications.

This is evident from the meticulous selection of Gulf astronauts, encompassing aviation experts, medical professionals, engineers, and scientists specializing in biology, chemistry, and environmental studies. These individuals are tasked with conducting experiments in their respective fields, thereby contributing significantly to the advancement of space science.

These are part of a broader program in several GCC countries, aimed at increasing the proportion of GDP allocated to scientific research. This is pertinent for topics directly affecting the Gulf region, such as desertification, water scarcity, artificial rain, and certain region-specific diseases.

Outsourcing keeps costs down

Further criticisms pertain to the reliance of these Gulf missions on rockets and spacecraft from other countries. This contradicts prior cost-related critiques. The space economy, mirroring the broader global one, has countries frequently opting to import certain goods instead of manufacturing them, often for economic reasons.

Instead of starting from scratch and manufacturing at high costs, importing at lower prices becomes a more practical solution. This trend, prevalent in the era of globalization and open markets, also applies to space economies.

For instance, the US occasionally launches its astronauts using Russian rockets and also employs the use of the Russian Space Station, which holds an international character. Conversely, Russia utilizes some American technologies for space science. This pattern extends to China as well, highlighting international cooperation in this realm, with cost considerations playing a vital part.

Economic gains in the long run

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have joined this international collaboration, reaping benefits on multiple fronts. Hence, this matter bears a commercial and investment nature, promising significant economic returns in the long run.

The criticisms reflect either a lack of understanding of the future space economies, scientific and environmental experiments, experiential learning, and the development and training of Gulf personnel. Or they express a sense of despair due to the inability to keep pace with this trend and the ensuing scientific progress.

In both instances, critics fail to grasp these transformations and the importance of the Gulf countries' participation in them. The GCC countries have decided to move beyond being mere spectators, choosing instead to actively engage in the global scientific and technical advancement.

They are making efforts to invest in and increase their contribution to these developments. This indicates a sound comprehension of impending changes and their significance for humanity at large. Despite the criticisms, these nations remain steadfast in their commitment to making meaningful contributions to global advances.