Astronaut Virts, UAE space chief discuss the future of space exploration at FII

Mohammed Al Ahbabi, the director-general of the UAE's United Arab Space Agency, speaks at Future Investment Initiative.

Terry Virts, one of the world's most well-known astronausts, and Mohammed Al Ahbabi, the director-general of the UAE's United Arab Space Agency, painted a positive picture for the future of space exploration at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh.

"The UAE has initiated an initiative to try to bring the Arab space agencies to work together," said Al Ahbabi, saying that bringing together 11 agencies recently is the "first step."

Virts added that "there is excitement everywhere I go," speaking on the future of space exploration at the Future Investment Initiative.

Virts, who is an astronaut in the International Space Station (ISS) and a commander in the US Air Force, said he felt positive about space exploration.

Private space exploration initiatives like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are enablers more than distractions, Virts said.

The space industry, which was previously dominated by state-owned space companies including NASA in the US, has recently began to diversify. Private companies including Virgin Galactic and SpaceX have been working on their own space programs.

"There’s two different aspects of private space. Space tourism, and the actual launching of rockets for scientific or commercial purposes … these guys innovate quickly, they do things that frankly I don’t think governments are capable of doing," he added.

Virts and Al Ahbabi spoke in a panel moderated by Arab News' Faisal Abbas.

Last month, Hazzaa Al Mansoori made history by becoming the first Emirati astronaut to be deployed on a space mission to the ISS.

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