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Conquering space is about solving problems, school pupils told

DUBAI // Pupils from across the country listened as satellite engineers from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre shared their experiences and discussed the obstacles they had to overcome to develop the nation’s first satellites.

Speaking at the Project Space Forum on Tuesday, Salem Al Marri, assistant director-general for scientific and technical affairs, explained how in 2006, a group of young Emirati engineers went to South Korea to develop pioneering Emirati satellites DubaiSat-1 and DubaiSat-2.

In January, MBRSC announced the completion of the final design stage of KhalifaSat before work begins on its manufacture in Dubai for a launch next year.

Tala Al Khalidi, 17, and Mirna Shatnawi, 16, pupils at Al Mawakeb School in Barsha, said they were astounded by what the engineers had achieved in 10 years. “I used to be very interested in astronomy, and when the school told us about this forum, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get excited about the subject again,” said Mirna, from Jordan.

“It was interesting to hear the engineers’ stories about working in South Korea with a partner, which shows collaboration can have a great effect when it comes to development.”

The Arab world’s first mission to Mars will begin the 62 million kilometre journey to the Red Planet from an island in south Japan. The UAE’s unmanned probe, named Hope, is set to launch from the Tanegashima Space Centre in July 2020 using a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries rocket carrier.

Tala, from Iraq, said she was impressed by the engineers’ passion for their work. “It’s so interesting to learn about their journey, which started more than 10 years ago, and even more interesting that they were so young when they started,” she said. “It’s inspiring to see all these students here, and this comes to show that it is not true what they say about our generation, that we are lazy.

“We’re here because we want to learn and we are inspired by the generations before us.”

Syrian Daher Zeidan, 21, an IT student at University of Dubai, said that he, too, was inspired by the forum. “These engineers were able to to achieve and overcome technical, programme and logistical issues in such a short period of time,” he said. “It really does show that everything is possible if there’s real ambition.”

Mohammed Al Harmi, director of the Corporate Development Department, said that challenges to working in South Korea were not just job-related but extended beyond their working hours. “When we moved it was a big change, a cultural shock in the beginning,” he said. “We needed to adapt to the culture, to the food, and then we realised there are a lot of similarities between our cultures.

“It taught us how to be men, stand on our feet, learn different systems, to be independent and with time, we learnt the language. It’s now second home.”

Amer Al Sayegh, senior director of the space engineering department and KhalifaSat project manager, said that he also faced some challenges trying to adapt to a new country.

“There were so many experiences, and when put in such a situation you learn about yourself and the world,” he said.

Omran Sharaf, project manager of Emirates Mars Mission, said the trip to South Korea was crucial to progress.

“Being out of my comfort zone was the best experience and my biggest challenge,” he said. “To all the youth, this is one thing that you really need to focus on. If you want to move forward and progress, you have to be out of your comfort zone.”

Mr Sharaf’s statement stood out for Reem Al Sharyani, 23, from Emirates University.

“It really just clicked when he said the part about being out of your comfort zone,” she said.

“I think it’s something that can be scary but also something that will inspire you to do great things.”

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The National