Dubai: More than 150 aspiring astronauts took the first step in realising their dreams when they launched their model rockets into the clear blue Dubai sky on Saturday morning.
Donning blue Nasa space suits, excited students from schools across the UAE — accompanied by their eager parents — gathered at the sprawling parking lot of Dubai Parks and Resorts, which served as the launch station for 164 rockets built and fired by the students.
Part of a space education programme for children ahead of the UAE’s launch of its first astronaut into the International Space Station (ISS) in September, the event was organised by the Space and Rocketry Academy UAE (SARAUAE), part of Compass International.
Supported by the UAE Space Agency, the region’s biggest model rocket launch was the culmination of SARAUAE camps held over the last 10 months that exposed students to the workings of space missions, creating mission patch, while allowing them to taste real space food.
The children also constructed their very own model rockets, equipped by solid fuel rocket motor engines.
On Saturday as the students fired their rockets in batches of 10, some of the tiny models soared up to 500 metres in the sky, returning to earth in small parachutes.
Space experts such as Dr Jim Rice, a Mars geologist and Dr Rosabala Bonaccorsi from Nasa were part of these camps.
The model rockets were built under the guidance of Michael Flachbart, a Nasa expert in model rocketry. “I am really excited to be part of this camp. I joined the camp a few months ago and learnt to build a rocket and also other things about rocket science and space. Rocket science always excited me but before this camp I didn’t know much about it, now I am definitely going into the space sector for higher education,” said Adam Ali, a grade 10 student, who was one of the 164 students who launched rockets on Saturday.
Two types of model rockets were flown: Research Express, a single stage rocket and Sky Metra, a two-stage model.
The rockets were powered by single use, low power pre-packed motors, generally used for basic rocketry. The students built these based on a design approved by the National Association of Rocketry. “It was a really cool experience and I believe this will really help me in the future as I look forward to being an astronaut,” said Noura Al Fardan, a 12-year-old Repton School Dubai student.
Going by the degree of excitement among children for space and rocket science, it seems a significant future population will be in space at any given time and the authorities are happy to channelise the energy.
“We are delighted to support the Space and Rocketry Academy UAE and collaborate with Compass International to raise awareness among students, teachers and parents of the importance of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and space exploration by inviting international experts to the UAE to share their knowledge and experience. Through events, initiatives and activities such as these camps we aim to build national human capacity and inspire the next generation of space pioneers,” said Dr Mohammad Al Ahbabi, director-general of the UAE Space Agency.
Lissy Donald, managing director of Compass International and the brains behind the camp, told Gulf News that the success of this camp has inspired the group to plan more such activities.