The Ministry of Information Technology, Communication and Innovation and the Mauritius Research and Innovation Council (MRIC), in collaboration with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), organised a live conversation between the Emirati astronaut, Dr Sultan Al Neyadi, who is currently on board the International Space Station (ISS), and students of the Republic of Mauritius on Thursday 11 May 2023.
The event took place at the Sir Harilal Vaghjee Hall, in Port Louis, where 15 Mauritian students and one student from Rodrigues had the chance to ask questions to the Emirati astronaut about life on board the ISS as regards his daily activities, the scientific experiments being conducted and, the challenges of living in space. The online conversation lasted for some 20 minutes and was attended by 250 students from 47 schools and 9 higher education institutions in Mauritius. The event was also followed by 80 students from secondary schools in Rodrigues and was live-streamed on the NASA TV channel on YouTube and the MRIC YouTube Channel.
The Acting President of the Republic of Mauritius, Mr Marie Cyril Eddy Boissézon; the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology, Mrs Leela Devi Dookun Luchoomun; the Minister of Information Technology, Communication and Innovation, Mr Darsanand Balgobin; the Director General of the MBRSC, Dr Salem Humaid Al Marri, along with a delegation of senior officials of the MBRSC, and other personalities were present on the occasion.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister Balgobin highlighted that the exploration of space is not only a scientific endeavour but also a symbol of human curiosity and ingenuity. He recalled that year 2021 was a turning point for Mauritius with the launching of its first nanosatellite, and marking the beginning of our space journey. “In January 2023, my Ministry and the MRIC signed a framework agreement with the MBRSC for collaboration to take Mauritian Space agenda forward and, today’s event is the fruit of this collaboration and the beginning of many more to come,” he stated.
On this score, Mr Balgobin thanked the Director General of the MBRSC for his commitment and support and added that the latter’s willingness to share his expertise and resources is a testament to the spirit of cooperation and collaboration between friendly countries, which is necessary for advancing space exploration and scientific knowledge.
Furthermore, the Minister underscored that this event’s objective was to inspire Mauritius’s young generation to namely, dream big, kindle in them the passion for space exploration and science, and develop a vision for themselves and our nation.
For his part, Dr Al Marri indicated that the collaboration between the UAE and Mauritius is growing and the event of today is one of the first steps where a live call from space with Dr AlNeyadi was organised with the people of Mauritius.
He dwelt on some future areas of collaboration such as: the building of a joint satellite with Mauritius where Mauritian payloads will be onboard and taken up to space; allowing Mauritian engineers and students to undergo live training on the satellite system in Dubaï and; enabling Mauritius to get access to space through the provision of a platform where cameras, payloads and systems from the country could be sent to space.
These measures, he remarked, will allow Mauritians to design, innovate and work on projects that will enable them to gather experience. “Both countries have a very strong connection as regards space technology and, we will continue to collaborate and work together so that both grow as countries in terms of exploiting and utilising space as well as learn and benefit from each other as the Space Centre would work very closely with the institutions from Mauritius,” Dr Al Marri pointed out.
It is recalled that Dr Sultan AlNeyadi is the second Emirati Astronaut onboard the ISS, which has an orbiting science laboratory. He is on board the ISS since March 2023 and performed a successful seven-hour spacewalk on 29 April 2023. During his six-month mission, the Emirati Astronaut will also carry out a series of scientific experiments.