Space Pavilion conference delegates hear astronaut describe importance of STEM education
Astronaut Col. Al Worden, USAF-Retd., Command Module Pilot, Apollo 15, delivered a strong message to future space explorers in a speech during the second day of the Space Conference at the Dubai Airshow: “You - STEM students - are the future of the human race. You are going to create, build and fly craft into space. The universe is waiting for STEM students.”
Col. Worden, one of only 24 people to have flown to the Moon, and America's first astronaut to perform a deep space EVA on the return from the Moon aboard Apollo 15, said: “I’ve been visiting a number of schools in Abu Dhabi for the last three or four days, promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) education, and I have to say there are a lot of very dedicated and bright kids out there.”
He noted that the UAE was founded the same year he landed on the Moon (1971). He is impressed with the country he has never visited before, and its vision. “The idea of building a city on the moon in the next 100 years takes a lot of vision. A level of visionary leadership that reminds me of JFK in the 1960s, when he said we were going to put a man on the moon – a programme that went extremely well!” said the octogenarian space expert.
As well as backing the future of the UAE talent pool, Col Worden is keen to underline that such ambitious space exploration cannot be undertaken by a single nation.
“The (UAE) Mars probe is a catalyst for change. I think we are all going to go together. Such a plan needs co-operation, collaboration and it’s extremely expensive, technical and complex. We can’t do it alone.”
He told a reverential audience how the US’s Apollo programme drove interest in STEM in the US. “The universe is waiting for STEM students. We have to get them excited. Humans are natural explorers, and we like to discover, and ask a lot of questions, as should students. Exploration is a frame of mind. It takes determination and we need to encourage more people to step out of their comfort zones,” he said.
He admitted feeling a little scared when he undertook his moon mission, but said the crew were so busy in the lead up to the mission, they didn’t have time to consider their own safety – saying that: “Doing something for your country is more important than your own safety. You lose all sense of self when it comes to space flight.”
The astronaut – who navigated back to earth using a sextant - stressed the importance of working together, working hard and collaborating on a sustainable future.
“Leaders see the future. JFK saw the future, and I believe the UAE leaders can see the future. That future vision needs resources, funding and organisational facilities to be pursued, along with sustainable support,” he concluded.
The first Space Conference at Dubai Airshow 2017 is supported by the UAE Space Agency, The Boeing Company and Orbital ATK.
Alongside the Space Pavilion, the first Space Pavilion conference welcomed the global sector to join senior representatives of the UAE Space Agency, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Yahsat, Boeing, FAA and ICAO.
The Emirates Mars Mission, otherwise known as ‘Hope’ is slated to land on Mars in 2021.
Space-related exhibitors at the Dubai Airshow include Aistech, Bertin Technologies, Centre Nationale d’Etudes Spatiales, EPAC/Reshetnev and the Swedish Space Corporation.
Michele van Akelijen, Managing Director of organisers, Tarsus F&E LLC Middle East, said: “Colonel Worden delivered a truly inspirational speech today. His insight into what we need to do to pursue the UAE’s space aspirations is invaluable. The UAE’s commitment to this programme is unshakeable, ambitious and impressive. This is why we are honoured to have him attend our inaugural event and receive his blessing at our first Space Pavilion at the Dubai Airshow.”
The Dubai Airshow ends on Thursday, November 16 and this year includes many new features, including GATE, UAS Summit, Cargo Zone and Airport Solutions.