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Interview with UAE Space Agency Director General Salem Butti Salem Al Qubaisi


UAE Space Chief has underscored the nation’s ambitious vision for space exploration and its significant implications for global sustainability.

Speaking on the sidelines of the 28th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), UAE Space Agency Director General Salem Butti Salem Al Qubaisi emphasised the pivotal role of collective action in driving progress, shedding light on the Emirates’ groundbreaking mission to the asteroid belt and its wider implications for the future of space exploration and environmental stewardship.

Mr Al Qubaisi positioned the UAE’s space endeavours as an integral component of the nation’s commitment to advancing environmental preservation and fostering a sustainable future. He emphasised on “collective efforts” citing the Arab Space Cooperation Group, which is responsible for coordinating regional space efforts among the 14 member states, including Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, and the UAE.

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“We’ve started the Arab Space Cooperation Group, which is an important enabler,” said Mr Qubiaisi.
”Through such initiatives, we see collective programs and initiatives sharing knowledge and sharing experience, with which we can go further into reaching our goals for a better climate, for a better future, and for our youth.
“This is not applicable just for our region but is also an international engagement. We are close partners with the USA in such initiatives, and we try to be there in every session and participate actively. We even have partnerships with specific enablers for UNICEF programmes. The Bahraini experience as well – we had quite an engagement through a bilateral initiative that we are doing together. Our cooperation goes on many layers, from the public sector, where we are, to the private sector, which is doing great jobs. I emphasise again that we can alone go faster, but collectively we can go further.”

Mr Al Qubaisi further highlighted the Emirates’ pioneering mission to the asteroid belt, a venture guided by an unwavering commitment to harness space technologies for the betterment of terrestrial life. He expounded on the mission’s objectives, elucidating its potential to yield vital insights into resource utilization, celestial dynamics, and the composition of celestial bodies, all of which hold implications for addressing earthly environmental challenges.

“The Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt stands as a testament to our dedication to pioneering scientific exploration with a purpose,” he said.
“Our strategy on how to implement this project is that we needed to see more stakeholders from both the private and public sectors. So we came up with the idea of forming a national team with members ranging from fresh graduates to leading project system engineers who are working in major companies and within our national sector – who can formulate this theme and also give back to the sector in general.”

Mr Al Qubaisi was part of a high-level panel discussion on Space and Sustainability organised by the World Green Economy Organisation, alongside United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs Director Aarti Holla-Maini and others.

In emphasizing the interconnectedness of space exploration and earthly sustainability, he reiterated the imperative of international collaboration in leveraging space technologies to address environmental exigencies.

“The pursuit of sustainable development necessitates concerted global efforts, and space exploration serves as an epitome of collective action,” he said.
“By fostering partnerships and sharing knowledge, we can fortify our endeavours to safeguard our planet and transcend the boundaries of our world.”

The panel discussion resonated with the broader themes of COP28, encapsulating the ethos of harmonizing technological innovation with ecological consciousness.

Against the backdrop of COP28, Mr Al Qubaisi further affirmed the UAE’s commitment to leveraging its burgeoning space capabilities to champion sustainable practices and foster environmental resilience. As the world convenes for COP28, the UAE’s resolute stance on the fusion of space exploration and sustainability elucidates a pioneering approach that reverberates with global significance, charting a course towards a harmonious coalescence of scientific advancement and environmental stewardship.

By Raji Unnikrishnan

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