The growing role of space in a sustainable future

08 July 2019
The growing role of space in a sustainable future

Sustainability has always been a fundamental motivation behind our mission to explore life and resources beyond our planet.

The consequences of the environmental challenges Earth is facing are becoming more severe as time goes by. The impact of climate change is already evident in the UAE, the region and in most countries worldwide. As such, contributing to a sustainable future is now more critical than ever both within our country and globally.

The space sector plays a vital role in providing global solutions for the environmental threats facing our planet. These threats include climate change, resource scarcity, desertification, rising sea levels, and an increased frequency and severity of national disasters. We are already putting space technology to work for the benefit of humanity by forming partnerships to foster innovative technologies, launching satellites to monitor and measure the impact of climate change, and establishing research centers dedicated to advanced sciences.

Today, the accumulated knowledge of more than 50 years of observation provides us with a better understanding of Earth, with improved knowledge of its various components including its atmosphere, land, oceans and ice coverage.[1]

A study conducted between the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) and the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO) suggests that Earth Observation data has a role to play in relation to most of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),[2] The United Nations announced 169 targets associated with these goals, 65 of which directly benefit from the use of Earth observation and navigation satellite systems.[3]

Space technologies can be utilised to pinpoint structures for urban planning purposes, apply global navigation satellite systems, Earth observation and satellite telecommunications, improve city services like the smart waste management systems, monitor air quality, manage disasters, monitor infrastructure, and help in search and rescue operations.[4]

Today, the number of operating satellites in the world is around 2,062[5], many of which provide services that drive sustainable development. We are constantly launching new satellites in orbit many of which contribute to sustainability development. 

In addition to our satellites orbiting the Earth, our space exploration projects will have a positive impact on our planet’s future. Mars exploration bolsters our efforts to enhance sustainability. For example the Emirates Mars Mission’s Hope Probe, which is due to be launched next year, will  study Mars’ atmosphere and share information about its temperature and climate, providing us with a better understanding of our own planet’s weather and how to address the impact of climate change.

We are making steady progress on our ambitious long-term projects like Mars Science City and Mars 2117, which by exploring the harsh conditions on Mars, will help us to develop new technologies to combat resource scarcity and improve efficiency and sustainability of our planet.

Our recent move to Masdar City is a testament to our desire to help build a cleaner, brighter future. By being at the center of a hub that includes academic institutions, research centers, and technologically advanced telecommunications and energy companies, we hope to demonstrate that the space sector is a significant enabler of sustainable development.

Moving to Masdar City underpins our partnerships and collaborations with key contributors to sustainability. We are a short distance from many of our stakeholders who are working to protect our planet from environmental degradation and are developing clean sources of energy. We believe that the space industry operates at the intersection of other key industries, supporting their growth and unlocking innovative new technologies.

Masdar City is well on its way to becoming a commercially viable city that offers the highest quality of life with the lowest environmental footprint.[6] All of us at the UAE Space Agency are proud to be contributing to the UAE Government’s long-term vision, which is reflected both in Masdar City, as well as our efforts to utilize space exploration and space resources to help us enhance sustainability and improve life on Earth.

The UAE Space Agency’s work does not only address the environmental element of sustainability; we contribute significantly to different elements of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by stimulating economic growth and developing international partnerships to share knowledge and experience.

Our National Plan for the Promotion of Space Investment, which aims to transform the UAE into a regional hub for commercial space activity, is already contributing to foreign investment in the UAE’s emerging space sector. It is encouraging our own investment vehicles to drive growth in the industry.

We are looking forward to growing further in Masdar City and developing new partnerships for the benefit of humanity. I firmly believe that our presence in Masdar City will not only enable our future success but support the growth of the entire community.

Being in Masdar, the heart of the UAE’s sustainability efforts, serves as a great inspiration that motivates us to continue working together with the international community to develop new methods of utilizing space for the benefit of future generations.