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Monday, October 4, 2010     GET REAL

NASA: Collaboration with Saudis a 'cornerstone' of U.S. policy

ABU DHABI — Saudi Arabia and the United States have agreed to expand space cooperation.


Officials said Riyad and Washington have been discussing ways to expand space cooperation, including joint satellite production. They said other options for cooperation could include joint missions, technology development as well as a training exchanges between the U.S. National Aeronautics Space Agency and the King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology.

"It is a cornerstone of NASA policy," NASA administrator Charles Bolden said.

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In an address to a two-day space technology conference in Riyad, which ended on Oct. 3, Bolden raised the prospect that Saudi Arabia would receive U.S. space technology, Middle East Newsline reported. He said President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were reviewing export controls to enable Washington to provide its allies with space technology tools.

In October, King Abdul Aziz City signed two agreements with NASA designed to expand cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United States. Officials said the accord stipulated joint projects as well as the exchange of researchers.

"We want to extend and sustain our presence across the solar system," Bolden said.

One of the agreements called for an expansion of scientific cooperation and research between Saudi Arabia and the United States. The two sides also signed a so-called Letter of Intent to advance joint efforts in aeronautics and space.

"Our joint experience with them will be applied to satellites manufactured in Saudi Arabia," King Abdul Aziz City vice president Turki Bin Saud said. "A Saudi team is currently working in the United States to design and produce satellites."

Saudi Arabia has been regarded as the most advanced space operator in the Arab world. Riyad has so far launched 12 satellites with assistance from European and U.S. contractors.

"These satellites focus on space research which benefits many public and private agencies," Turki said.

In 1985, NASA, with agreements with more than 100 countries, trained and deployed a Saudi Air Force pilot for a successful mission aboard the Space Shuttle. During the conference, also attended by Royal Saudi Air Force commander Gen. Mohammed Al Ayesh, the former Saudi astronaut, Prince Sultan Bin Salman, reflected on the space mission.

"When you look out of the window and see the atmosphere only this thick, and think that is all we have to live in, it is then you see things differently," Sultan, the only Arab or Muslim who traveled in space, recalled.


HRH Dr. Turki is on the right track in pursuing space related technologies as an area for expanded multinational collaborative realtionships. Scientists throughout KSA have the academic prowess to collaborate in major projects of high value with aerospace researchers in the US. This kind of win-win relationship between the countries will empower the current generation to focus on great dreams and aspirations like the baby boomer generation had, and will foster a unifying spirit as these projects accomplish tangible milestones.

Richard Litman      1:34 a.m. / Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sultan al Saud took an honorable part in the 1985 shuttle mission, and later did become a military pilot, but I believe it was his role in the Arabsat payload that earned him his seat. And an Arab pilot from Syria has also flown into space, on a Russian spaceship, while a large number of Moslem background people have flown in orbit — as Sultan al Saud knows and would have told the misinformed reporter, if asked. The depth of Moslem spaceflight experience is much greater, and more respectable, than the article describes, and pride and expectation of greater accomplishments is certainly justified.

James Oberg (Houston) /
     8:21 a.m. / Tuesday, October 5, 2010

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