The Global Aerospace Summit taking place on April 30 –May 2, 2018, brought nearly 1000 aviation professionals together in Abu Dhabi to discuss aviation, aerospace, space and defense. Besides numerous deals and industry discussions during the event, United Arab Emirates also took the opportunity to make grand declarations about its role in the space sector.

During the summit, the position of the Middle East in the space sector was revealed – out of the 217 space sector start-ups and entrepreneurs funded in 2017, 14 of them were founded in the Gulf region. The 217 ventures received over $2.5 billion last year. And while over half of the ventures funded were in the U.S., Global Aerospace Summit signifies why the Middle East should not be overlooked when it comes to the space industry.

Aside from being one of the fastest growing and strongest of aviation regions, countries from the Middle East are now setting their sights even further.  Few months back, UAE announced that it will reward $500,000 in grants for proposals related to "space settlements, terraforming and space ecology" and "business models and governance issues."

UAE already has grand plans for space – the country is on a mission to establish a settlement on Mars by 2117. While it may not sound as impressive as Elon Musk’s ambitions colonize the red planet by 2024, UAE government seems to be just as serious about the plan.

During the Aerospace Summit Dr. Mohammed Al Ahbabi, the Director General of the UAE Space gave a talk on “Arab Space Leaders: Space and the Arab World”. Regarding the historical mission to Mars, Al Ahbabi said that it is not only about achieving the mission, but also using it as a platform to solve other challenges.

“We are using this project to educate, to network, to bring technology to the country. Because this country faces challenges similar to Mars. We face issues related to food security, water security, energy and environmental challenges. We are using this mission to find solutions to current problems that we face here.”

UAE recently announced that it will build a Mars city, simulating life of the planet to test out the possible conditions. And while it is far from the first experiment simulating life on Mars, this AED 500 million project seems to test out the conditions of what life on the planet would look like if covered by a giant bubble.

Al Ahbabi added that the focus on the space sector is part of UAE’s current and future strategy, through which the government aims to inspire the upcoming generations to educate themselves “We inspire them through space and they can go to oil and gas, airlines, aerospace, renewable sector and so on. We are using space to elevate their expectations and position our country as a contributor to the world at large.”

The Global Aerospace Summit, bringing over 1000 aerospace leaders together focused on how aerospace helps advance mankind and how it can build the human capital needed to develop the industry. Global Aerospace Summit is an effective commercial program enabling access to the most high potential, lucrative markets and customers for aerospace, defense, space and aviation platforms and technology. Sponsors get exclusive access to the most senior decision makers and influencers in the industry.