In his speech at Science, Technology and Innovation Festival in Dubai, HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman Delivers Inspiring Messages to Future Space Scientists and Attendees
• Saudi Astronauts Program to be launched soon by SSC; selection is per highest standards.
• We bet on our youth who, given the right opportunity, can build better futures.
• We shall remain committed to articulating our values to the world, encourage peace and coexistence as cures for rivalry and wars.
• King Salman Center for Disability Research constructs its vision on using scientific research to serve humanity.
His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Saudi Space Commission (SSC) delivered a speech at the launch ceremony of the National Science, Technology and Innovation Festival, organized by UAE Ministry of Education in Dubai.
In his speech, the Chairman of Saudi Space Commission touched upon several issues, including the SSC’s upcoming programs, the memories of his spaceflight in 1985, the relationship between the great founders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, among other topics. Prince Sultan said the people of this region have a mission that exceeds racing for technology and space, to propagating the authentic values that emerged from this region to the world, adding: “We have to take an active role in building a better future for everybody.”
Prince Sultan recalled the great role served by Late King Abdulaziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia, who dedicated his lifetime to uniting people, building Saudi Arabia as a union of hearts, rather than a consolidation of geography. “Since 1985, Saudi Arabia has made major strides toward space.
The Kingdom owned a strong base of scientific research and knowledge, powered by thousands of professionals, male and female, who received education from distinct local and international universities, and who hold top positions at research centers worldwide, including medicine, technology and engineering, said Prince Sultan. “Saudi Arabia has mature universities that have overseen scientific programs. The Kingdom has afforded scholarships to a large segment of its population, in some years the number of students who got scholarships reached up to 200,000,” he added.
Investing in people despite challenges
Prince Sultan stressed that Saudi Arabia has, over decades, prioritized its human capital, and used its oil fortune not only to modernize infrastructure, but also to nurture its people and found research centers and universities that receive worldwide recognition now. Saudi Arabia had broken new grounds in the field of space, by participating at a space mission in 1985 and exhibiting advanced capabilities while acting as the largest founding partner of Arabsat since 1976.
Prince Sultan unveiled new details of his flight to space in 1985, saying: "I was the only person from a non-military sector, and worked with a 35-member scientific team, majority of whom came from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.” "We must be in a hurry to achieve coexistence in our time. The institutions I have led, including the SSC, all operated on sophisticated technology and creativity. But a race for technology, education and employment shall not be our sole focus. We, the citizens of the Arabian Peninsula, are Muslims and come from a country that respects openness to other religions; and our role is to preserve our values and improve lives.” The Chairman of SSC expected that, in the course of ten years, space flights, especially short ones, will be available to the public "helping people see the planet from a distance.
We hope your generation realize the real meaning we live for… when you travel to space, you realize that the Earth is a tiny planet lying in a dark corner and that even though, people never cease to disagree, clash and spoil the environment.”
An era of human closeness
Prince Sultan said: “We believe our age is not an age of technology alone, but an age of human closeness. Today, social media and the travel of hundreds of millions of people make closeness possible.
In future generations, people will look at each other differently, which will hopefully make the world a peaceful place.” “Saudi Arabia has a bet on its youth. Guiding the youth into the right direction can change reality and spark a transformation… and so the SSC will not spare an effort to connect people with the space.”
Outlining his vision for the space, Prince Sultan said: “We do not look at the space sector as a proxy for launching astronauts to space. It goes far beyond that. We launched Ajyal program; and started its execution in association with King Abdulaziz & His Companions Foundation for Giftedness & Creativity (Mawhiba). At Ajyal, we work with ‘counselors’ from primary to secondary schools, as well as fresh university graduates. We aspire to shape them all to taking leading roles at our emerging space commission.” Prince Sultan revealed that the SSC will roll out a program to qualify Saudi astronauts in the first quarter of this year.
The program will select citizens based on highest qualifications to conduct space-focused research that enriches experiences, adding: "We seek to establish a Saudi space company that sponsors several programs, including a financing scheme, to forge partnerships with small enterprises. Now, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sees a tremendous growth in startups in various fields, and we want to direct financing and focus to enterprises owned by young people to encourage them to forge partnerships worldwide and improve their competencies specially in space economy.”
Using technology to enrich lives
Prince Sultan said that the vision and work of King Salman Center for Disability Research focus on using scientific research to serve humanity and enrich lives, “A day will come when we won’t see a person sitting on a wheelchair, nor a person suffering blindness.
We work to change people's lives via scientific research and space science which unlock great opportunities.” On potential cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the field of space, Prince Sultan expressed keenness to visit “the brothers at the UAE Space Program to learn about their accomplishments”, and said signing cooperation agreement with the UAE could be soon, while "a joint space mission could be a possibility in the future.”
Prince Sultan commended attending UAE astronauts saying: "You made us proud. Your mission was challenging, and training program long and complex. But I came to know from you, your trainers and coworkers that you reached the highest levels of performance.”
A historical meeting with Sheikh Zayed
Prince Sultan recalled his historic meeting with the late founder of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed, saying he was among the people who got inspiration from Zayed, when he visited the UAE in 1988 on orders from King Fahd, who paid close attention to the Prince’s space flight, received daily progress reports, and made weekly phone calls with the team, and was keen to give the team a royal reception at Taif Airport on their return – a reception that was attended by thousands of citizens who took pride of the achievement.
“Sheikh Zayed was a true visionary and had good relations with King Abdulaziz… when I met Sheikh Zayed, he was keen to know every detail: how the mission started, how work was done, how the scientific team functioned…etc.” then I asked: “Your Highness! Did you ever think of travelling onboard a space flight?” he turned to me and said: “I wish I do.
But they don’t let me go.” He was a man preoccupied with building his nation. Prince Sultan continued: "Saudi Arabia is not a geographical union, but a unity of hearts. Sheikh Zayed once explained how he was trying to unite people’s hearts to live together, saying that his mission was not a mere consolidation of land."
Finally, Prince Sultan remembered the role his mother played nurturing him: "I would like to tell the ladies in this room that, King Salman himself usually says: ‘Our mothers are the ones who nurture us to become who we are now." The session was attended by H.E. Hussein Al-Hammadi, UAE minister of education; H.E Dr. Hamad Al-Falasi, state minister of higher education and board director of the UAE Space Agency; and Ms. Jamila Almuhairi, minister of state for public education.