DUBAI: The Arab world has a high level of awareness about the UAE’s space partnership with Japan, according to a YouGov online poll of 18 countries designed to gauge Arabs’ perception of Japan on various topics.
In the survey, which asked 3,033 Arabic speakers from the GCC, North Africa and the Levant, aged 16 or above, two-thirds correctly identified the UAE as the Arab country “currently working with Japan’s space program.”
Unsurprisingly, most Emirati respondents (81 percent) gave the correct answer.
“Space has become a huge field in the UAE,” said Mariam Alshehhi, an Emirati who is studying space in the UAE. “It will play a large part in the future of our country, so it is only right that we, as the youth, get acquainted with the topic in detail and are aware of what we are doing in this field.”
The UAE is leading the region in the field, having just sent its first astronaut, Hazza Al-Mansoori, to space, where he conducted 16 scientific experiments in cooperation with international space agencies, including the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Some of the experiments he conducted on board the International Space Station (ISS) concerned the effects of microgravity. The results of two phases of experiments will be compared to contribute to supporting the UAE curriculum with new scientific materials.
In 2016, JAXA and the United Arab Emirates Space Agency signed an agreement to strengthen cooperation in exploration for peaceful purposes.
In October 2018, KhalifaSat, the first UAE-made high-quality, remote-sensing Earth observation satellite, was successfully launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan.
The satellite’s role is to beam images to a ground station in Abu Dhabi. The pictures are said to help governments and private companies across the globe in climate change, disaster relief and urban planning.
“It is widely known that both the UAE and Japan have a vision to become innovative countries. Space development is one of the areas where we have invested heavily in recent years,” a senior Japanese diplomat based in the Gulf region told Arab News.
Amer Al-Sayegh, the KhalifaSat project manager, says the mission has helped the UAE form partnerships with Japanese colleagues, not only in technical work but as two teams and cultures working together for the same vision.
In addition, the Arab world’s first mission to Mars, an unmanned exploring probe named Hope, is due to be launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre in 2020.
“These are only a few examples of our collaborative work between the two countries,” the Japanese told Arab News, referring to the Emirates Mars Mission. “We hope our cooperation will be developed even further in the future.”
In 2003, Japan’s government created JAXA as an independent administration agency through the merger of three organizations.
JAXA focuses on asteroid sampling, as demonstrated by two major programs.
First, in 2009, the unmanned cargo transporter Konotori resupplied the ISS. In 2010, the Hayabusa probe returned to Earth after collecting samples from the asteroid Itokawa. This year, there have been two landings of Hayabusa2 on the asteroid Ryugu to gather samples.
“JAXA’s program is quite specialized and reflective of the Japanese approach to space and the future of space mining,” said Theodore Karasik, senior advisor at Gulf State Analytics in Washington DC.
“The symbolism of the UAE’s effort is meant to inspire innovation and capture the imagination. Moreover, the UAE plans to put a colony on Mars in 2117 for new generations. The idea is to have a shift in mindset towards education and innovation, whereby other Middle Eastern countries can participate in scientific projects that help propel more innovation and space travel.”
For Hamdan Alrashidi, an Emirati who is interested in studying space, the opportunities in the field are endless. “We want to be able to support our country however we can, and space has always been a fascinating topic for me,” said the 21-year-old.
“There is so much for us, as Emiratis, to learn from countries who have experience in the field, and Japan is definitely one of them.”