Salem Al Marri has been appointed as the new head of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, the organization that has a key role in several Emirati space projects, such as its astronaut program, and the UAE Mars Exploration Mission.
Mr. Al Marri, 39, was among a small group of Emiratis who helped create a national space program in 2006, when work began on developing the UAE’s first satellite, DubaiSat-1.
Khalaf Yousef Al-Shaibani, who has served as the director general of the center since 2013.
Mr. Al Marri was part of the team that established the Emirates Institute for Advanced Science and Technology in 2006. It became the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in 2015.
He was the project manager for DubaiSat 1 and DubaiSat 2, the first two Earth observation satellites in the UAE launched in 2009 and 2013, respectively.
In 2014, he was awarded the Emirates Pioneers Award for his leadership in the development and launch of satellites. The awards were presented by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, to celebrate the exceptional performance of Emiratis in the fields they choose.
Efforts were made to promote the national space program in 2014, when the Emirates Space Agency, a federal body that oversees policies and regulations, was formed.
Mr. Al Marri also leads the UAE Astronaut Program, which so far has four members, including the first Arab female astronaut.
He helped oversee the country’s first mission to space, when Hazza Al Mansouri went to the International Space Station in 2019.
The United Arab Emirates became the first Arab country to host the International Astronautical Congress – the largest space conference in the world – this year. Mr. Al Marri was the head of the bidding team that helped the UAE win the hosting rights.
He represented the Emirates and the Space Center in more than 50 international conferences.
Mr. Al Marri told The National earlier that the UAE’s space plans would follow global space exploration efforts, including on the Moon and Mars.
One area of focus for the space center is the country’s long-term plan for lunar exploration, which will include the development of orbital vehicles and the lunar module.
Next year, the Rashid rover, the nation’s first lunar mission, will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The UAE and NASA are also conducting active discussions about the possibility of the UAE joining the Artemis program, which aims to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon.
Plans are also underway to build a 500 million dirhams ($136.1 million) Mars Science City in Dubai International Academic City, with construction expected to begin next year. This should help the space center’s plan to send astronauts to Mars one day.
Mr. Al-Marri also hopes to secure a second mission to the International Space Station and is in discussions with partners.
“We are in negotiations,” Al-Marri said. We are always discussing Emirati space missions with our partners and finding ways to send the next Emirati to the International Space Station.
“We will announce the mission [التالية] Just in time and when we are ready.”
The UAE is also planning a mission to the main asteroid belt of the solar system, with a flyby of Venus, but a project manager has not yet been announced.
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