Abu Dhabi Space Debate with Khaled bin Mohamed and Abdullah bin Zayed and Sara and Reem and Israeli President
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan (fourth from right in front row), Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, member of the Executive Council and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Office, and Israeli President Isaac Herzog, at the opening ceremony Image Credit: WAM

Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi Space Debate kicked off in the capital today, with world leaders and top officials heaping praise on the UAE’s rapid progress and ambitions within the sector.

Highlighting the need for greater collaboration among space agencies, governments and private sector players, Sarah Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology, chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, and chairwoman of the Higher Committee of the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, highlighted how the latest international space treaty is more than is 55 years old.

“[Space] is no longer a bipolar area with a space race, but a multilateral sector with 70 nations being considered space capable, a fast-growing private sector taking on an expanding role, and global tensions threatening some of the greatest aspects of the field. Yet our most important piece of international legislation, the Outer Space Treaty, dates back to 1967,” Al Amiri said.

Al Amiri said the world needs to act now on the issue of space debris, and to use the findings of space research to tackle pressing climate concerns.

Valuable contribution

“There is no global forum where regulators, governments, space commands, militaries, private sectors and academics can meet to take a holistic view of the development of this vital sector. This is where we believe the Abu Dhabi Space Debate has a key and valuable contribution to make in order to further define this development,” Al Amiri added.

The conference was officially inaugurated by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, member of the Executive Council and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Office, Israeli President Isaac Herzog, and Dr Jitendra Singh, Indian Minister of State for Space, Science and Technology.

Pressing concerns

Speaking to attendees, a number of space experts highlighted the importance of space research and technology to combat climate change and advance medicine. The debate also highlighted the presence of 30,000 pieces of space debris orbiting the earth, despite the existence of 77 government space agencies and numerous private sector players.

Herzog and Dr Singh also praised the UAE’s space ambitions and plans, and expressed hopes for greater collaboration with Emirati space missions and projects.

Israeli partnership

Herzog said: “I am especially proud of our evolving space partnership with the UAE. Our countries are boldly leading the region to new frontiers in space and leaving our mark on history. Look no further for an inspiring example than the Venus satellite, a joint Israeli-French project that is now proving for joint Israeli-Emirati research. The Venus satellite has been closely circling Earth, monitoring vegetation, forests, cropland, nature reserves and beaming back multi-spectral images. In their first joint venture, the Israeli and Emirati space agencies are now funding a joint analysis of this data by Israeli and Emirati scientists which will help us better understand our global environment and collaborate on better solutions to protect our planet’s green lungs.”

“It is critical that we deepen and extend such transnational collaborations for the benefit of our planet and our region. As we look forward to COP28, which will be held in the UAE in a few months, we must work together to harness the power of advanced space technologies and address the urgent climate crisis in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Our cooperation can turn our beautiful region into a global hub of climate solutions, and I believe the UAE, Israel and India can lead the way.”

Indian collaboration

The UAE’s collaboration with India in the space sector dates back to 2017, when the UAE’s first nanosatellite, Nayif-1, was launched aboard the Indian PSLV rocket in order to collect environmental space data. Dr Singh said the development of space is now a priority for the leaders of both nations, and congratulated the UAE for the Emirates Mars Mission, the upcoming launch of the lunar Rashid Rover, and its plans to send more astronauts to space.

“The commitment of both countries to abide by international laws in use of outer space brings both [the UAE and India] together to work for a more sustainable space sector. For the cause of the Earth, it is important to bring all stakeholders to discuss and deliberate, and in this regard, a platform like [the Abu Dhabi Space Debate] has the potential to shape the future of the space sector. As a key global player in the space sector, India is keen to take its partnership with the UAE to newer heights, and to make maximum use of this gathering today,” Dr Singh said.

UAE's achievements

The inaugural edition of the Abu Dhabi Space Debate will continue in the capital till tomorrow.

Statistics highlighted on the first day of the conference discussed the presence of 8,000 satellites in orbit around Earth, and the existence of 16 national space agencies with launch capabilities.

The UAE itself has 19 satellites in orbit, and 10 more under development. It has also become the sixth country to reach the Mars orbit, and is one of four nations that have announced plans to reach the orbit of Venus. The Venus orbiter mission will also explore the asteroid belt beyond Mars, and is scheduled for launch in 2028

Sheikh Abdullah witnessed the keynote address delivered by President Herzog, as well as the speech of Dr Singh.

On the occasion, Sheikh Abdullah welcomed the visit of President Herzog to the UAE and his participation in the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, affirming that cooperation between their two countries in the sectors of space, knowledge, and related technologies, is witnessing continuous growth and development.

He also highlighted that the Abu Dhabi Space Debate constitutes an important global platform for foreseeing the future of this vital sector and enhancing its contributions to sustainable development and stimulating global economic growth.

Sheikh Abdullah noted that the UAE, in light of its pioneering global achievements in the space sector, was keen to organise this global event to develop innovative global strategies in space exploration, and pave the way for fruitful international cooperation in this sector.

He praised Abu Dhabi Space Debate's focus on the three main topics, which include space sustainability, space accessibility and space security, indicating that the event also focuses on strengthening the role of the private sector in the field of space exploration.

Sheikh Abdullah expressed his wishes for all participants to benefit from the event to build an effective international cooperation model in the field of space exploration that includes innovative and modern strategies to promote the growth of this vital sector for the benefit of all humanity.