In 2014, the United Arab Emirates Space Agency was established to develop the national space sector and to promote scientific research and innovation. The government of the UAE is using space research and innovation as a means to diversity the national economy away from petroleum, as they encourage young Emiratis to study STEM and space-related subjects. Emirati youth are eager to learn more about space and develop their own capabilities, and the appetite for space-related information and knowledge is insatiable in the UAE.
Through this media co-op, Abu Dhabi TV is developing content for an entire season (13-17 episodes, depending on content) of the youth-focused nationally-broadcast, “Space and the Future” television program, which will cover the history of NASA, education and training of astronauts, space research, and other topics of interest. The resulting season of “Space and the Future” will firmly align Emirati youth with the American space program, American space exploration, and American values. In addition to educating young Emiratis about the U.S. space program, the media co-op will focus on American STEM education and economic opportunity related to space.
Upon arrival to D.C., the team members interviewed Dr Peter Jakab, chief curator at The Smithsonian national air and space museum. Dr Jakab discussed the overall history of the
Museum as well as specific details on the history of the wright brothers and their historic first flights. They later visited Steven F Udvar Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, where they interviewed Dr. Margaret Weitekamp, Chair of the Space History Department. The Dr. curates the museum’s social and cultural history of space flight collection. She spoke with the team standing in front of the space shuttle Discovery and discussed both the shuttle history as well as other artifacts in the museum and its overall mission.
The following week, the team traveled to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. They met with Alex Young in the STEAM Lab, where he spoke about coding data from missions and the use of 3D printers and virtual reality.
Michelle Thaller, while overlooking the High Bay Clean Room where they worked on the James Webb Space Telescope project, discussed how the clean room operates, the functionality of the telescope, and how they are building robots to fix satellites.
While at Goddard, they also spoke with Mehdi Benna, who spoke to the team about Mars, and how the loss of Mars’ magnetic shield has implications for Earth as well. Bill Barry, NASA’s chief historian, explained how since the genesis of the US Space Program, NASA has been about Space Cooperation and a mission to advance all of humanity.
Sandra Cauffman, the acting director of NASA’s earth science division explained the cooperative agreements between NASA and the UAE.
Members of the Co-Op had an amazing interview with Bill McArthur (ret.) at the Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas. He spoke in detail to the team about space travel, his astronaut experiences, and his time on the ISS as well as shuttle missions. He also spoke about his training and likely what the UAE astronaut (soon to launch) will experience.