Times of Oman
Oman can lead global space research sector, claim experts
October 30, 2017 | 10:13 PM
by Gautam Viswanathan, [email protected]
Omani and Austrian Space Forum signed an agreement for the Mars research mission.
 
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Muscat: Oman’s unique position in the world could see the Sultanate become a space research hub in the future, according to scientists and experts in the country.

Read also: Oman to be Mars mission staging ground

The value of space research and development is currently valued at about US$ 330 billion (about OMR127 billion), and Oman could become one of the main staging posts for research and expedition planning. A Mars research mission being organised by the Austrian Space Forum has been scheduled for February 2018 and an agreement was signed yesterday between the agency and the Omani government.


Omani and Austrian Space Forum signed an agreement for the Mars research mission. -ONA



The tiny Dhofar town of Marmul, with a population in the low thousands, will host the expedition, and could provide a launchpad to Oman’s space research ambitions. Researchers believe Marmul - better than anywhere else on earth - resembles the Red Planet. Representatives landed in Oman yesterday morning to sign a deal at the offices of the State Council, and more could soon be in the pipeline, experts agree.

Terrain and conditions

With terrain and conditions very similar to Mars and other planets in the solar system, Oman provides the perfect environment to simulate conditions on Mars, ahead of the agency’s planned missions to Mars in future.

“I think, that with Oman, all that is required is to flip the switch,” said Dr. Gernot Gromer, president of the Austrian Space Forum, or Osterreichisches Weltraum Forum. (OeWF)

“There is plenty of human and technological potential in Oman, and the government is very keen to actively promote space research here.”

Wisam Al Busaidi, vice-president of the Oman Astronomical Society, believes Oman can establish itself as a hub for space research and development.

“There are two or three other organisations that have begun speaking with us on similar missions,” said Al Busaidi, who is also the project manager for the Omani delegation on the Mars mission.

“We can definitely become a space research sector, there is nothing to stop Oman from doing this in future. There is interest in future generations to involve themselves in the scientific sectors. There are around 19 experiments which will take place in February, and one of these is Omani.

“Two high-school girls from Izki have an experiment to search for water on Mars,” he added.

“There are three main factors as to why Oman was chosen: the topographic and geographic location looked like Mars, secondly, Oman is a very safe and stable country and we have nothing to worry about, and this is really appreciated by the people from abroad.

“Thirdly, we are very well known for our hospitality in Oman, and the researchers have access to all facilities, so the government is helping them to take part in many experiments,” he said.

Some of the experiments that will be carried out as part of the project – AMADEE-18 - include a field test of the prototype Aouda spacesuit, which weights 45 kilograms and is designed to mimic the gravitational conditions and read life signs the way it would need to on Mars.

Gernot Gromer added: “It’s not just the simulation of missions, such as the ones we are doing, but additional services as well, when it comes to things like engineering, telecommunications, remote-sensing, software etc.,”

“The government is really looking to inspire the next generation of students to develop interest in the STEM (science, technology, English, mathematics) subjects, whether they are elementary students in Muscat or high-school students in Salalah, and I genuinely think that is possible.”

“Oman is currently interested in researching and launching small satellites for itself, so there is an active interest among

researchers here to get this underway,” he added. “We will be located in Marmul, which is near Salalah, because the topography there is very similar to the terrain on Mars. It is really off-grid and is great for our experiments.”

Oman will be the laboratory in which several new space faring designs will be tested, including a hydroponic, airtight greenhouse that is designed to grow food on Mars, a radio communications array that is meant to function in areas of decreased gravity, and tests to see how the time of day affects the physical and mental capabilities of astronauts.

The agreement with the OeWF and the Omani government was signed in the presence of Gromer and Alexander Soucek, both of whom are board members for the Austrian Space Forum, HE Al Khattab Al Hinai, chairperson of Oman’s National Steering Committee and Oman Astronomical Society, and Dr. Saleh Al Shidhani, president of the National Steering Committee and Oman Astronomical Society.

Also present was Gregor Kossler, Austria’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman.

“There are three main factors as to why Oman was chosen: the topographic and geographic location looked like Mars, secondly, Oman is a very safe and stable country and we have nothing to worry about, and this is really appreciated by the people from abroad.

“Thirdly, we are very well known for our hospitality in Oman, and the researchers have access to all facilities, so the government is helping them to take part in many experiments,” he said.

Some of the experiments that will be carried out as part of the project – AMADEE-18 - include a field test of the prototype Aouda spacesuit, which weights 45 kilograms and is designed to mimic the gravitational conditions and read life signs the way it would need to on Mars.

Gernot Gromer added: “It’s not just the simulation of missions, such as the ones we are doing, but additional services as well, when it comes to things like engineering, telecommunications, remote-sensing, software etc.,”

“The government is really looking to inspire the next generation of students to develop interest in the STEM (science, technology, English, mathematics) subjects, whether they are elementary students in Muscat or high-school students in Salalah, and I genuinely think that is possible.”

“Oman is currently interested in researching and launching small satellites for itself, so there is an active interest among researchers here to get this underway,” he added. “We will be located in Marmul, which is near Salalah, because the topography there is very similar to the terrain on Mars. It is really off-grid and is great for our experiments.” Oman will be the laboratory in which several new space faring designs will be tested, including a hydroponic, airtight greenhouse that is designed to grow food on Mars, a radio communications array that is meant to function in areas of decreased gravity, and tests to see how the time of day affects the physical and mental capabilities of astronauts.

The agreement with the OeWF and the Omani government was signed in the presence of Gromer and Alexander Soucek, both of whom are board members for the Austrian Space Forum, HE Al Khattab Al Hinai, chairperson of Oman’s National Steering Committee and Oman Astronomical Society, and Dr. Saleh Al Shidhani, president of the National Steering Committee and Oman Astronomical Society.

Also present was Gregor Kossler, Austria’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman.


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