UAE, UAE, DUBAI - Telecoms & IT
Director General, Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC)
Yousuf Al Shaibani has held several senior positions at MBRSC, including a member of the organization’s board of directors, and was appointed Director General in 2013. Recognized as one of the founding members of MBRSC, Al Shaibani has made valuable contributions toward the growth and development of the organization. Al Shaibani graduated from Etisalat University College (now known as Khalifa University), Sharjah, in 1995 and went on to receive his master’s degree in microelectronics systems design from Central England University (now known as Birmingham City University) in the UK in 1997.
What has been the immediate impact of the UAE’s first human mission into space on the country, and what will be the long-term impacts of building a corps of Emirati astronauts?
The launch of the first Emirati astronaut, Hazza Al Mansouri, on a scientific mission to the International Space Station was a landmark moment for the UAE and the Arab world. While Mission One was undoubtedly a dream come true for each one of us, it also strengthened our position in the global space sector. During his time at the Space Station, Al Mansouri communicated with students in the UAE regularly and provided the very-first tour of the station in Arabic. The results of the experiments conducted by Al Mansouri before, during, and after his spaceflight will serve as valuable insights for students, researchers, and scientists in the UAE and across the world. To inspire the youth, Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi have been visiting schools across the UAE, sharing their experiences with students. The success of the mission will go a long way in inspiring future generations to pursue space science and other STEM-related fields to drive human progress. Mission One was just the start of our long-term goals of supporting the country’s vision of creating a knowledge economy while contributing to global scientific efforts for space research and exploration. Just months after the conclusion of Mission One, we started our search for the next batch of Emirati astronauts who will represent our country in future space missions.
How does the center contribute to creating a culture of innovation and research in the STEM space?
One of our key objectives at MBRSC is building the nation’s capabilities in space technology and research. Based on our realization that the future of the UAE’s space sector depends on the capabilities of our future generations, we have launched a slew of initiatives and programs to engage with students of different age groups and levels. For instance, the Space Explorer Camp, which is part of our Mars 2117 initiative, is a program for young students to learn about the fundamentals of space science and technology. Meanwhile, the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) encourages graduates to contribute to the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) — Hope Probe, the UAE’s first interplanetary mission, which will be launched in July 2020 on its mission to study the Martian atmosphere. Through our programs and space missions, we are creating an ecosystem for innovation and R&D in the UAE. While we are a young organization, we have grown quickly, and with each project, we have built new capabilities.
How do you see EMM helping build national capabilities in the fields of space sciences and R&D?
The relevance of any space mission transcends its scientific objectives. Its impact on human capital ripples through future generations. EMM — Hope Probe, even before its launch, has helped us build our knowledge base and our capabilities in interplanetary space exploration. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum once said, “The Emirates Mars Mission will be a great contribution to human knowledge, a milestone for Arab civilization, and a real investment for future generations.” Exemplifying the vision of our great leaders, in the past five years, over 100 Emirati engineers, scientists, researchers, and administrators have gained a deep understanding of building a spacecraft that can reach Mars. A team of Emirati analysts are studying existing data from other missions to develop their capabilities so that when the probe starts sending data, our team is ready to analyze it and turn it into valuable insights that can be shared with the global scientific community. The data that we receive from the Hope Probe once it reaches the Martian orbit will provide the first comprehensive picture of the planet, which will benefit generations of scientists and explorers.