Are we spaced out?: AUB must invest in space education and research

Rayan Abdul Baki
Contributing Writer

AUB is capable of anything it sets its mind to. It was ranked the top university in the Middle East in early 2018, ranked forty-first for graduate employment in the world, and is currently in the top two percent of universities worldwide. We are boldly AUB. Why not do something that will pull Lebanon out of regression and put it on the STEM map? The U.S. is only 400 years old yet it pioneered science. We might be late bloomers, but the race isn’t over yet.

I have always dreamt of being Lebanon’s first astronaut, whether it is on the International Space Station, the Moon, Mars, or my personal favourite: Pluto. I’m on the premedical track in the hopes that I will one day become a flight surgeon and pioneer in Aerospace Medicine. Astronauts are always at risk of DNA damage due to radiation or muscle atrophy (decrease in muscle mass) because of low gravity. When I read recently on “The 961” that seven AUB students are engineering a sounding rocket, calling themselves AUB’s rocket club, I was delighted. They were carrying on the legacy of the Lebanese Rocket Society (LRS), a group in the sixties that were developing the first rockets of the Middle East. Although the UAE has its own space agency and is sending a Martian Probe known as Al-Amal or ‘the Hope’ to Mars in 2022, we technically carved the Arab world’s first footsteps into space exploration.

 

After finding out that the LRS was shut down because of political conflicts in the region, it made me wonder, why does politics have to control everything in Lebanon? For one, space effaces borders. As the Earth begins to succumb to climate change and overpopulation, the human race will be forced to colonize other natural satellites and planets. Being the hostile environment it is, people will be forced to forget their nationalities, religious and political affiliations and anything setting them apart to work together. The International Space Station is the greatest example of potential world peace. I remember seeing this project online called Asgardia about creating the first ever space-based nation, composed of anyone. Cedar 4, the penultimate rocket made by the LRS, reached 140 km after launch, almost bringing it near satellites floating in low earth orbit. Its legacy is now on a stamp. One of their rockets can be found outside Haigazian University.

That being said, I think the University should begin to engage its students with sciences in relation to space. Maybe one day we can have a Faculty of Space Sciences at AUB. Maybe we can even partner with the UAE space agency and form a Pan-Arab Space Agency. The Lebanese Space Agency must be born, and not fall into military hands, but create the first batch of Lebanese Astronauts and dare to fly.

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