I’ve been attending the Global Space Technology Forum here in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. The National, the UAE’s major English-language paper, picked up my speech at the conference here:
Berin Szoka, chairman of the private, non-profit Space Frontier Foundation in the US, said the UAE should look upon space travel as an “Ibn Battuta moment”, referring to the Arab explorer, and finance space exploration. But, he added, the Government should not follow Nasa’s example by “monopolising” all space exploration, and instead create opportunities for private investors. He cited the example of the X Prize, a competition led by private enterprise in the US, which sparked the creation of the spaceship to be used for space travel by Virgin Galactic.
“The government should be in the business of enabling and supporting this, not funding it completely,” he said. “If you are looking to build a space agency, the worst thing you could do is try to replicate Nasa. It would be a complete waste of money.
“You should look at prizes like the X Prize, which led to personal space flight in the US. It demonstrated it is technically possible and commercially possible. You should look at prizes for things like cheap access to space, and for vehicles that could launch from spaceports here in the UAE.
“The opportunity is here for the UAE to become the nexus for space travel. Someone has to provide the hub and I can think of no better place to do it than here. You just need to attract innovation and talent to the UAE.”