UN sets up space technology education centre for Western Asia

A regional centre for space science and technology education for Western Asia will be sited at the Royal Jordanian Geographic Center (RJGC) by April, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs has announced.

Awni Khasawneh, general director of the RJGC and secretary general of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences (AUASS), made the announcement at the 10th Arab conference on astronomy and space held in Muscat, Oman, from 5-8 February under the theme “The role of astronomy and space sciences in the development of contemporary societies”.

The conference was organised by the AUASS in cooperation with the Omani Astronomical Society.

Khasawneh told University World News that the regional centre aimed to strengthen the capacity of Arab countries in the field of space sciences and technology through research and support for masters studies in remote sensing, geographical information systems, satellite communications, space and atmospheric sciences, and satellite meteorology and climatic change. There would also be courses lasting three to nine months.

According to a study presented at the conference, the centre will be the only one to use Arabic and will serve Arab countries through a series of theoretical courses and research applications.

The study proposed that the centre focus on developing skills and knowledge among university scientists and environmental researchers, with the objective of building indigenous capacity in core disciplines.

The UN-affiliated centre is the sixth of its kind in the world after India’s facility for Asia and the Pacific, Nigeria’s and Morocco’s for Africa, and Brazil’s and Mexico’s for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Mohamed Tharwat Salah Heikal, professor and consultant at the Jeddah-based Saudi Geological Survey, told University World News: “This centre will be helpful for building the skills of talented young professionals."

In a panel discussion at the conference Ahmed Obaid Al Mansoori, director-general of the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology, called for the creation of a Gulf federation of astronomy and space sciences to promote research and development in the sector, according to a report in the Khaleej Times.