Dubai will host the largest annual gathering of space professionals in the world just days after the United Arab Emirates launches its ‘Hope’ probe to Mars.

Winning the 2020 International Astronautical Congress (IAC), which is expected to attract 5,000 specialised scholars and astronauts, has been touted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, as a “deserved accomplishment for the UAE in the space sector”.

“The congress will take place right after we launch the first Arab and Muslim probe to reach planet Mars… and also after we start working on the Mars Scientific City which will be the biggest space research centre in the world.”

The event will be hosted by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), in coordination with the UAE Space Agency. The bid was supported by 39 organisations, indicative of the emphasis the UAE is placing on expanding its space knowledge hub.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman and General Supervisor of the strategic plans and projects of MBRSC, said that the remarkable progress made by the UAE in the space sector had won international recognition.

“The UAE has greatly contributed to making the Arab region an important player in the global space industry with a series of projects that have built on what the world has already achieved in the space sector. We are now pursuing new initiatives that can help humanity understand space and how advanced space technologies can be used to enhance man’s life,” he said.

H.E. Yousuf Hamad Al Shaibani, MBRSC’s Director General, added: “We have entered the sector strongly with sustainable programmes including the Emirates Mars Mission, the National Astronaut Programme, The Integrated Satellite Manufacturing Programme and Mars 2117 Programme.”

The ​’Hope’ spacecraft aims to produce the first truly global picture of the Martian atmosphere, searching for connections between today’s Martian weather and the ancient climate of the Red Planet. The ultimate goal of the Mars 2117 Programme is to work with major international scientific institutions to establish the first human settlement on Mars by 2117.

The UAE Astronaut Programme was announced three months ago, with four Emiratis to be chosen as potential astronauts for a two to four-year-long training period. It has already had a tremendous response, with more than 3,000 applications received, with the youngest applicant 17 years old and the oldest aged 67.

President of the  International Astronautical Federation (IAF), Dr. Jean-Yves Le Gall said: “The IAF is extremely excited to host the IAC in the beautiful city of Dubai for the first time. The IAF analysed thoroughly the UAE bid and it was impressed by the organisational capabilities they offer. The MBRSC seems to give the IAC the highest importance.”

Eng. Salem Humaid Al Marri, Assistant Director General for Scientific and Technical Affairs at MBRSC and the Chairman of the Dubai Hosting Committee for the International Astronautical Congress in 2020, said that longer term, hosting the IAC will have a positive impact, not only on the space sector in the UAE, but also the entire region. “The conference is a platform for the global space community to exchange experiences and adopt innovative ideas that promote the global growth of the sector, as well as build ambitious new partnerships.”

His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, Dubai Tourism, added: “Business events play a vital role in not only attracting more visitors to Dubai, but also developing the emirate as a knowledge hub, and we look forward to welcoming IAC 2020 delegates and the rich expertise and knowledge they will share in Dubai.”

(via SpaceWatchME, AMI, The National, Emirates PR, Futurism)

Featured image from the Emirates Mars Mission