Mars missions help nations build scientific capabilities and develop technology

27 May 2015 – Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: The benefits of Mars missions, space exploration and satellite developments were highlighted on the second day of the Global Space and Satellite Forum 2015, held in Abu Dhabi.

The objective of the second day of the forum was to present different programs and approaches to Mars, and how various projects are developed and organised to meet their mission objectives. The session presented innovations in program management, technology development, meeting science objectives and furthering the exploration of Mars.

Omran Sharaf, Project Manager, Emirates Mars Mission, Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center explained how the UAE’s Mars mission is a mission of hope for the nation and for the youth of the region. He demonstrated that the mission is about contributing to society, building scientific capabilities and achieving sustainable development within the UAE.

Omran emphasised the point that the government has set a goal of adding value and not just doing what others have done, specifically from the science point of view. Space exploration will lead to giving back to society and serving humanity he added.

“It’s been proven that a lot of space technologies and infrastructure, directly or indirectly lead to development of science capabilities. The Mars mission is a catalyst to help us reach that goal. It will help us get the ball rolling, in terms of building knowledge. The Mars mission will allow us to improve techniques of monitoring climate, data utilisation and image processing. This all stems from space technology which can help lead to benefits in other industries such as healthcare. It will create new opportunities for scientists and engineers,” commented Omran.

Dr. Mike Mcgrath, Director of Engineering, LASP, University of Colorado Boulder explained that significant investment and time is needed and such missions continue to be difficult. He remarked that there is an optimism, attitude and approach that looks forward to the challenge in the UAE. “The people are motivated and focused. The level of teamwork is remarkable. The Mars mission is about culture and cultural interaction, it will help advance the world.”

James Crocker, Vice President and General Manager, Space Systems Company International, Lockheed Martinraised the point that the from last 10 mars missions, only 7 missions succeeded. Failure is a part of learning and he regularly tells the third generation of mars explorers. Crocker concluded by saying that when we succeed in Mars missions, it changes the way we look at the world and changes the way we look at ourselves.

The forum also presented the contribution of satellites to solving critical social and economic Issues.

Billions of dollars are available in universal service funds and nations throughout the world have been formalising national broadband plans. The panel discussed what needs to be done in order to assure that satellite-based solutions are included in those plans.

Distance education and, more recently, tele-health have proven to be well served by satellite-based connectivity. With the introduction of state-of-the-art satellite technologies, the panellists discussed what the future is for the vital public sector services.

Samer Halawi, CEO, Thuraya commented: “Our purpose as a satellite telecommunications company is to save and improve lives. For example, one person on a migrant boat that was sinking in the Mediterranean Sea last summer had a Thuraya phone; he had no credit but was able to call customer service. This led to the saving of 500 lives. We want to help improve communications and keep people connected across the world.”

Masood M. Sharif Mahmood, CEO, Yahsat said: “We are engaged in remote locations, focusing on improving connectivity. Yahclick is having a profound and important impact across the region. Beyond business and commercial plans, domestically we are interested in knowledge transfer and deepening the understanding of space and satellite communications.”

George Whitesides, CEO, Virgin Galactic echoed Masood’s sentiment by saying that there is a direct correlation in rise of broadband penetration and increase of economic growth across the world.

GSSF announced that it will resume as an annual space event, a congress that brings together the world’s top space leaders in the UAE. It will enhance Abu Dhabi’s position as a regional space hub. The GSSF will have a new name — the Global Space Congress.

The forum, organised by Streamline Marketing Group (SMG), is officially endorsed and hosted by the UAE Space Agency.