On his first visit to Egypt, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator, Charles Bolden, called for using space science and technology to bridge cultural gaps between the U.S and the Middle East. Bolden said that the space agency had plans to carry out projects in Egypt and other Islamic countries aimed at enhancing local living conditions. His visit was built on United States’ President Barack Obama’s New Beginning Initiative to promote cooperation and understanding between the West and the Middle East.
In a lecture at the American University in Cairo’s downtown campus on June 15th, Bolden said that the planned NASA projects were in line with US President Barack Obama's promise to "turn a new page" with the Islamic world in his seminal address delivered in Cairo last year. He explained that space science brings together experts with similar interests but of different backgrounds. Bolden explained that, “International cooperation is an intrinsic and essential aspect of space exploration,” and that NASA’s advancements were more easily accomplished due to their research partners in over 100 countries around the globe.
While Egypt is not yet part of any agreement, Bolden is hopeful that education and close ties will make that possible. A four-day workshop titled “Space Technology and Geo-information for Sustainable Development”, which started June 14th, involved scientists and officials from Egypt and the US working closely with 20 graduate students and some undergraduates from AUC, Cairo and Helwan University on ways to use space technology to improve life on earth.
The initiative was triggered by the infamous Egyptian-American scientist Farouk El-Baz’s visit to the Cairo Science Festival and by then, the students wanted to have a new research group that works in close coordination with him and NASA as well. The most distinguished of these students will travel to the United States in August to visit the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University, of which El-Baz is the director.
Bolden, who also participated in the workshop, urged Egyptian students to approach their universities and government with ideas and research topics they think is relevant to the growth of space technology and the promotion of international cooperation.
Bolden, a former NASA astronaut, thinks otherwise, believing that “every nation should have a space station.” He said he hopes to bring more co-workers back to Egypt and have Egyptian students visit the US in order to “expand the partnership” opportunities. “We are here to help students enrich their studies”, Bolden said, trying to encourage Egyptian students to establish a strong Egyptian space agency.
Bolden assumed his duties as the 12th administrator of NASA last year. He leads the NASA team and manages its resources to advance the agency's missions and goals. “NASA is not only a space exploration agency, but also an earth improvement agency”, he said, as he addressed the audience on the communal benefits of space exploration for the earth as a whole. Natural phenomena like desert and tropical storms, volcanoes, and forest fires said Bolden, are more easily monitored and thereby managed with the help of NASA satellites”. “We plan to cover weather forecasts, telecommunications, excavations of antiquities, remote sensing and crisis management”, Bolden added.