Broadcast 3695 Lisa La Bonte

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  • The Space Foundation Conference

  • The Space Foundation Conference

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  • The Space Foundation Conference

The Space Foundation Conference

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Guest:  Lisa La Bonte:  Topics: Lisa La Bonte on UAE space industry development, strategic workforce investment, Middle East space education and public outreach-and Najmonauts. 

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We welcomed Lisa La Bonte to the program to introduce us to space in the Middle East, the region of the Unite Arab Emirates and to their space programming, commercial space interests, space educational efforts, the current HOPE Probe orbiting Mars, plus more.  As I have done with other Space Show summaries, I suggest you follow the list of Tags/Key Words for the various topics discussed during our program along with the order discussed.  For your convenience, I am repeating them here:

Tags/Key Words:  Lisa La Bonte, NGO, Arab Youth Venture Foundation (AYVF), United Arab Emirates UAE), Abu Dhabi, Dubai, space agencies, Rocket Racing League for the Middle East, Dubai Space Center, UAE Space Center in Abu Dubai, Emirates Mars Mission, The Hope Probe Mars Orbiter, Japanese Space Agency (JAXA), STEM, global space conferences, student space careers, educational sponsorships, Elon Musk, Starlink Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos, Amazon, space interests, joint ventures with NASA, NAJMONAUTS, human spaceflight in the UAE, space tourism, Sovereign Wealth Fund investment, Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic, space camp, UAE satellite industry, communication satellites, imaging satellites, UAE and Jordan, space budgets, startups and entrepreneurism, solar power, renewable energy, water desalination, 3D printing, Maker Space programs, amateur rocketry, space academies, space benefits for the Emirates and region, possible future lunar mission, IAC Convention in Dubai Oct. 2021, The World Expo in Dubai October 2021 through March 2022, Covid-19 and the Emirates, space enthusiasm among the population, commercial space investments, growing space opportunities.

We started our 80 minute discussion with our guest providing us with her background for both her interest in space and her international space work, particularly in the Middle East.  Her space interest started when she found out about the Rocket Racing League for the Middle East around 2006-07.  As you will hear, our guest went to the UAE region for opportunity.  Eventually her work led her to create the NGO Arab Youth Venture Foundation ( which she described and talked about multiple times during our discussion.  While generally describing the technology awareness in the region, Lisa also talked about the established satellite industry and the Dubai Space Center along with the Abu Dhabi Space Center created around the same time.  She explained how they work together, and the current Mars mission with the HOPE Probe orbiting Mars to gather data about what happened to the Martian atmosphere was a united project.  The HOPE Probe was to have a life time of about a year and is already sending data back to Earth.  Lisa also talked about entrepreneurism in the area, and the Emirate focus on education. 

Our guest took us back to a more detailed discussion about the NGO she started and why, the Arab Youth Venture Foundation.  Listen to her story because it is interesting and a role model for others to do something similar in their country, even their city or state if they want to help expand the knowledge economy, STEM, opportunity and education.  Don't miss the part of the discussion where this NGO sent a young 19 year old participant to the annual geophysical conference in San Francisco where she delivered her reviewed paper and presentation on remote sensing.  Don't miss this story.

Marshall called to inquire about the status of Elon Musk, SpaceX and the Starlink project in the UAE.  While our guest did not and would not speak for the UAE, her own view was that Musk and SpaceX were well regarded.  As for the Starlink project, Lisa had no thoughts on that part of Marshall's question.  Lisa mentioned that a hyperloop project was underway in the area though she did not know if it was a Musk hyperloop venture or another.  As a result of a few emails I was receiving, I then asked our guest to pause for a few minutes and go over the makeup and geography of the United Arab Emirates as I was getting a sense that some of our listeners were not that familiar with the area.  Lisa provided us with a quick but effective overview that you will want to hear.  You can also check it out on this map of the region:

Listener Linda in Denver asked about human spaceflight, either for tourism or with government astronauts.  Lisa had much to say in her response to this question.  She also introduced us to the word for astronaut, NAJMONAUTS.  Not only did Lisa provide us with the origin of the word, but she told us the story of how she helped coin the word.  In addition, our guest talked about joint projects and educational program with NASA and Space Camp.  Other topics mentioned included space for defense plus communication and imaging satellites. 

Listener John in Las Vegas, an attorney, sent in a series of email questions.  I read each on the air so you can hear the questions plus the answers.  John's questions covered a broad range of topics from the UAE relationship with Jordan to space related internships, NASA joint projects, the UAE space budget, culture and more.  Please remember that when Lisa responded to these questions, she was not speaking for any government.  Listener Sandra asked Lisa about the Japanese program and since I mentioned from her bio that she spoke Japanese, she wanted to know if Lisa was spending time in Japan or had been to the Japanese launch of the UAE Hope Probe to Mars.  The answer was no as Lisa said she had not been back to Japan for 26 years. 

Given the earlier questions about SpaceX and Elon Musk, Paul from NYC asked about the recognition and status of Jeff Bezos in the area.  Lisa has some very interesting takes on Jeff, Blue Origin and Amazon which is popular in the area.  Don't miss what he said in response to Paul's question.  Her commentary touched on startups, innovation, Bezos expansion in the Middle East and Africa, then she mentioned that SpaceX was going to have an area in the US National Pavilion in the World Expo but she was not sure about Blue Origin.  

Roger from Tucson used email to inquire about the use of solar power in the UAE and their interest, if any, in space solar power.  Lisa spent several minutes telling us about the leadership in the area for recycle water and new types of energy production.  At one point she compared and contrasted to what they do with sea water to what CA does with sea water to mitigate what seems like endless periods of drought in CA.  Trust me, this was an easy compare and contrast with CA given CA prefers other methods that involve usage curtailment for Californians rather than finding ways to expand resource access through innovation and technology.  As part of this discussion, Lisa was asked for the price per gallon (liter) of gas for your car in the UAE.  Our guest did answer the question.  You might be surprised to find out it was not as cheap as you may think. 

As we were approaching the end of the program, our guest was asked about advanced technologies for space in the UAE.  For example, 3D printing and new types of manufacturing were mentioned.  Lisa said Maker Space activities were becoming popular.  She also thought that the UAE was looking at big space projects, the HOPE Probe being an example.  Another topic that came up as we were nearing the end of the program was a question from Randy about amateur rocketry in the UAE. 

As part of Lisa's program summary, she stressed that the UAE was very modern and did not need space to make the case for it being very modern.  It already was a very modern region.  When asked what type of mission might follow their Mars mission, she said possibly a lunar mission but there were no details on it.  Our guest then talked about the coming IAC meeting later this year and the World Expo that lasts six months, also starting late this year.  Before bringing the program to a close, I asked our guest to update us on Covid-19 in the region and the use plus acceptance of vaccines in the UAE.

Please post your comments/questions for our guest on TSS blog for this show.  You can reach Lisa La Bonte through me or her website   If the link does not work, copy and paste it into your browser.






Lisa La Bonte on global space development, investment and funding. Global space projects.

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25 May 2021 Lisa La Bonte
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