Italy will contribute to the development of the United Arab Emirates’ new and ambitious space programme to become the first Arab country to reach Mars with a satellite in six years. The president of the Italian Space Agency (ASI), Roberto Battiston, signed a framework cooperation agreement with the UAE Agency in Abu Dhabi today during his mission to the country with representatives of several aerospace and telecommunications companies and astronaut Maurizio Cheli.
After launching their first satellite to orbit the Earth in 2000, the Emirates are working to send a probe to Mars in the summer of 2020 as part of a joint project with the US. The satellite, called ‘Hope’, will begin to orbit the Red Planet in 2012, the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence. The mission, however, is only one part of a much broader programme that involves scientific analyses, telecommunications and infrastructure for the aerospace industry.
“Italy can make a major contribution to this programme, as it is the third country to have launched a satellite into orbit, after the Soviet Union and the US, with the San Marco project in 1964, and it is currently the third contributor country to the European Space Agency,” Mr Battiston said. Bilateral relations have been ongoing since 2015 and ASI has hosted students from the Emirates for specialisation courses. Areas where cooperation will be further enhanced include the use of Earth observation radar techniques and especially satellite telecommunications. “This is a sector with huge potential for development because it deals with the control systems of all automated vehicles, from drones to ships and driverless cars”.
Ambassador Liborio Stellino invited Maurizio Cheli to Abu Dhabi to represent the Italian aerospace system. Cheli was the second Italian astronaut to participate in a Space Shuttle mission in 1996, after Franco Malerba who preceded him in space four years earlier. Tomorrow Roberto Battiston and Maurizio Cheli will deliver two lectures to students of the Higher College of Technology. Ambassador Stellino said the mission and the agreement with the UAE Space Agency help diversify the prospects of cooperation with the UAE thanks to the “potential inherent in high-tech sectors in which Italy has a huge international experience” and which may “act as a driving force for our industry.”