Connecting space technology with climate change - GulfToday

Connecting space technology with climate change


Image used for illustrative purpose only.

The United Arab Emirates’ space programme goal of connecting space technology with climate change, especially linked to food security and water, gives a new perspective to technological thrust for the future. In the early stages of space exploration in the 1950s and the 1960s, the old Cold War rivals, the United States, and the Soviet Union (now Russia), were indulging in what appears in retrospect to be a futile race of who would reach the moon first. It turns out that it was a dead-end of sorts, and both the countries really lost interest in space for most of the 1970s. The 1980s and the 1990s became the decades of satellite communications and launching of satellites which would help in communications and help in weather forecasting and mapping became the highlights. Briefly, in the 1980s, the first term of President Ronal Reagan, the Americans were thinking of Star Wars, and of turning space into a military frontier. Fortunately, the plan fizzled out. Even now, the pioneers of outer space like the United States and Russia are still tinkering with old ideas like the International Space Station (ISS) and putting human beings into space as part of a long-term programme of inter-planetary voyages, especially between Earth and Mars, with the faint hope that the Red Planet, Mars, could be colonised one day.

The UAE’s space programme gives a new purpose and goal to space programme by connecting to the immediate challenge facing humanity – climate change. Instead of reinventing the wheel as it were, and doing what others have done, the UAE has managed to radically change the space agenda. Though a late entrant into the field of space exploration and research, the UAE has identified the goals accurately. A case in point is the competition with a Dhs4 million funding announced by the Space Analytics and Solutions (SAS) programme of the UAE Space Agency. Sarah Bint Yousef Al Amiri, Minister of Advanced Technology, and Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, has set the tone when she said, “We are proud to partner with the UAE Space Agency’s Space Analytics and Solutions Programme that will advance space science and expedite our journey towards a climate-resilient, food secure world.”

Another important aspect of UAE’s space programme is that right from the beginning there is participation of the private sector. Technologies to be successful necessarily are research-driven as well as industry-driven. While research will draw in younger generations of scientists and technologists, industry participation will create job opportunities for the scientists and technocrats as well as many more in the field of agriculture and water management. While computer programmers and data analysts will be of prime importance, the infrastructure of space reach and applications will create opportunities for plenty of jobs in the ancillary industries and services. The trend so far in the space sector has been capital intensive and hi-tech intensive, which needed participation of a few but highly skilled workforce and a few entrepreneurs. This is still the trend in the civil space tourism programme that is taking wings in the United States with the participation of Tesla’s Elon Musk, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Virgin’s Richard Branson. The UAE space programme holds out the prospect of a larger number of people in what is likely to become the economy of the future.

One of the challenges of climate change is the management of resources, and technology must be pressed into service for the job. The UAE space programme is forging the strategic link between management of resources and climate change. And this is also a way of linking the general economy with the technological frontier and space science.

Related articles