James Bridenstine (left) and Dr Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi after signing the agreement at the 69th International Astronautical Congress being held in Bremen, Germany. Image Credit: Courtesy: UAE Space Agency

Bremen, Germany: NASA and the UAE Space Agency (UAESA) signed an Implementing Arrangement (IA) on Tuesday that outlines cooperation across a range of areas related to space exploration and human spaceflight.

The document was signed by Dr Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills, and Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, and James Bridenstine, Administrator at NASA during a ceremony at the 69th International Astronautical Congress, being held in Bremen, Germany between October 1–5.

The IA falls under the overarching Framework Agreement signed between the UAESA and NASA in June 2016, which established a framework for areas of cooperation in ground-based research, sub-orbital research, research and flight activities in low-Earth orbit (LEO), and human and robotic exploration in the vicinity of the moon, on the lunar surface.

The new IA enables the training arrangements for UAE astronauts to be discussed. It also provides further opportunities for the UAE to utilise the International Space Station (ISS), and for the UAE Space Agency to contribute to lunar exploration.

“This significant agreement builds on our bilateral relationship with NASA and the US space sector. It also reflects the deep economic, cultural and diplomatic ties shared between the United States of America and the United Arab Emirates,” said Dr Al Falasi.

He pointed out the UAE’s national space sector has reached a highly advanced stage, particularly with regards to the opportunities and expertise prevalent throughout.

“By advancing our international cooperation in space, we aim to further develop these local capacities through more sophisticated space missions and drive the growth of the national space sector,” said Dr Al Falasi.

With a shared aspiration to launch space exploration projects that benefit humanity in its entirety, Dr Al Falasi said the signing of this agreement reflects the UAE Space Agency’s commitment to further strengthening partnerships with the most important space agencies around the world.

Meanwhile, James Bridenstine, Administrator of NASA, referred to the UAE’s current project with US Universities to build an orbiter “Hope”, to launch in 2020 and reach Mars in 2021.

“As NASA builds cooperation for the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilisation, we welcome the opportunity to expand our partnership with the UAE Space Agency as it builds its significant capabilities on Earth, in low-Earth orbit, and beyond,” he said.

The IA also outlines opportunities for ground based research projects at the UAE’s Mars Scientific City in collaboration with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), a landmark research and development facility that aims to simulate conditions on the Red Planet and is set to launch in 2020.

As part of the agreement, and in collaboration with MBRSC, the UAE Space Agency and NASA will explore the feasibility of conducting field studies and research in space biology, physical sciences and human research at the City. The projects will aim to make use of Mars Scientific City and the NASA Human Research Analog, a unique facility dedicated to investigating the effects of spaceflight on human beings.