A Celebration of UAE-US Collaboration in Space

Friday, March 8

Four Seasons Hotel
Dumbarton Room
Washington D.C.

Event Details

Arrival and Registration
10:00 AM


Introductory Remarks
10:30 AM - 11:00 AM
Welcoming statements featuring Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE Minister of Youth and MBRSC
Astronaut H.E. Dr. Sultan Al Neyadi. Following will be brief remarks from NASA Administrator Bill
, and UAESA Director General Salem Al Qubaisi, and NSpC Executive Secretary Chirag


Discussion on UAE-US Space Collaboration
11:15 AM - 11:30 AM
Featuring H.E. Omran Sharaf - UAE Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
for Advanced Science and Technology, NASA Associate Administrator Jim Free, MBRSC Assistant
Director General Amer Al Sayegh Al Ghafri, and Mohsen Al Awadhi – UAESA Program Director of
the Emirates Mission to Explore the Asteroid Belt and the Department Director of the Space Missions
Department. The panel will be moderated by NASA Associate Administrator Karen Feldstein.


Conversation with UAE Astronauts
11:35 AM - 11:50 AM
Featuring H.E. Dr. Sultan Al Neyadi, Emirati Astronaut Hazzaa Al Mansoori, and MBRSC Director
General H.E. Salem Al Marri to discuss the Artemis Lunar Gateway Airlock, the Lunar Gateway
Program, and the UAE Astronaut Program. The panel will be moderated by MBRSC Director of Strategic
Communications Department, Saud Karmustaji.


Lunch Reception and Industry Briefing
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Featuring Assistant Director General of Space Operations and Exploration Sector Adnan Al Rais, LASP
Program Manager Peter Withnell, and Heyam Al Blooshi – UAESA Space Systems Assembly and
Testing Senior Engineer. This portion of the event will be geared toward those who work in the
aeronautics field and are interested in learning more about the technical details of the UAE-US
partnership on the Gateway lunar space station, the Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt, and the UAE
astronaut training program. The briefing will be moderated by Danny Sebright, President of the US-UAE
Business Council.

Notable Attendees
Sultan Al Neyadi

Dr. Sultan Al Neyadi
Emirati Astronaut [MBRSC] and Minister of Youth for the UAE
Sultan Al Neyadi is an Emirati astronaut and the first Arab to serve on the International Space Station (ISS) for a long-duration mission, as part of Expedition 69 and the first Arab Astronaut to perform a spacewalk. In January 2024, Al Neyadi was appointed as Minister of Youth, supporting the youth sector and empowering the next generation of Emirati leaders. During his ISS mission, Al Neyadi conducted more than 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations alongside NASA astronautsa Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev as part of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission.


Bill Nelson

Bill Nelson
Administrator [NASA]
Former Florida Senator Bill Nelson was sworn in as the 14th NASA Administrator on May 3, 2021. In this role, he carries out President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ vision for NASA in showcasing American leadership in air, space and on Earth for the benefit of all humanity. Senator Nelson has dedicated nearly five decades to public service, serving 18 years in the U.S. Senate and 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1986, Senator Nelson became the second sitting member of Congress to travel into space.


Salem Butti Salem Al Qubaisi

Salem Al Qubaisi
Director General [UAESA]
Engineer Salem Butti Salem Al Qubaisi became the Agency’s Director General in September 2021. As Director General, he is responsible for charting the Space Agency’s strategic direction, fulfilling its mission to enhance the space sector, and supporting the UAE’s vision for sustainable and economic growth and diversification. Prior to joining the Agency, Al Qubaisi held positions as the Director of Nuclear Security at the Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation (2011-2013), a board member with Abu Dhabi’s Monitoring and Control Centre (2016), and as a Technical Program Manager for the Ministry of Defense (1995-2005).


Chirag Parikh

Chirag Parikh
Deputy Assistant to the U.S. President [EOP] and Executive Secretary [NSpC]
Appointed in August 2021, Chirag Parikh currently serves as the Executive Secretary of the National Space Council. As Executive Secretary, Mr. Parikh is responsible for advising the President on domestic and international policy across the civil, commercial, and national security sectors; as well as monitoring the implementation of the President’s space policy. Prior to joining the Biden-Harris Administration, Mr. Parikh worked for Microsoft Azure as their Senior Director. From 2010 to 2016, Mr. Parikh served as the White House Director of Space Policy on the National Security Council. Prior to that, he led the United States space intelligence community as the Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Science and Technology.  


Omran Sharaf

Omran Sharaf
UAE Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for Advanced Science and Technology
As UAE Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for Advanced Science and Technology, Omran represents the Emirates globally in the field of advanced technology and the national space sector. In June 2022, he was appointed to chair the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Prior to these appointments, he was the Project Director of the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai. He was responsible for developing, launching, and operating the mission, including the design, engineering and construction of the Hope probe, which reached its orbit of Mars on the 9th February 2021.


 Salem Al Marri

Salem Al Marri
Director General [MBRSC]
Salem Al Marri currently serves as the Director General for the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) since January 2022. Prior to that, Al Marri served as the Centre’s Deputy Director General. Al Marri was part of the team that established the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST). In 2014, Al Marri received the UAE Pioneers Award for leading as the Project Manager of MBRSC’s first two Earth observation satellites, DubaiSat-1 and DubaiSat-2, launched in 2009 and 2013, respectively. He also leads the UAE’s Astronaut Program.


Hazzaa Al Mansoori

Hazzaa Al Mansoori
Emirati Astronaut [MBRSC]
Hazzaa Al Mansoori is the first Emirati astronaut. In 2019, he embarked on the UAE’s first scientific mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The mission carried the slogan ‘Zayed’s Ambition,’ making the UAE the 19th country worldwide, and the first country in the Arab region, to travel to the ISS. He also became the first Arab Increment Lead for an ISS expedition during this mission. In his role as lead, Al Mansoori guided the ISS crew through every aspect of the mission.


Karen Feldstein

Karen Feldstein
Associate Administrator, International and Interagency Relations [NASA]
Karen Feldstein is NASA’s Associate Administrator for International and Interagency Relations. Among the many areas within her extensive portfolio, she is responsible for the management of NASA’s international and interagency activities and partnerships, including that between NASA and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center. During her career, she has cultivated groundbreaking engagement with emerging space partners around the globe to enable and strengthen NASA’s programs and bring the benefits of space to societies around the world.


James Free

James Free
Associate Administrator [NASA]
Jim Free is the Associate Administrator of NASA, the third highest-ranking executive and highest-ranking civil servant. In this role, Free serves as senior advisor to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy, leading the agency’s ten center directors and the mission directorate associate administrators at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. Previously, Free assumed the role as associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in 2021. From 2013 - 2016, Free served as the Center Director at NASA’s Glenn Research Center.


Mohsen Al Awadhi

Mohsen Al Awadhi
Program Director of the Emirates Mission to Explore the Asteroid Belt and the Department Director of the Space Missions Department [UAESA]
Eng. Mohsen Al Awadhi spearheads the Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt as the Mission Director. Al Awadhi played a pivotal role in the Emirates Mars Mission as the Lead Mission Systems Engineer. In this role, he was responsible for overseeing the technical aspects of the mission, from intricate system design to the successful execution of the spacecraft's journey to Mars. Al Awadhi began his career as an Aircraft Technician with Emirates Airlines, where he honed his skills in aviation mechanics, aero-engines and system maintenance, laying a solid foundation for his future endeavors.


Amer Al Ghafri

Amer Al Sayegh Al Ghafri
Assistant Director General [MBRSC]
Eng. Amer Al Ghafri currently serves as the Assistant Director General at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center. In this role, he leads the innovative team responsible for furthering the UAE's space technology capabilities. He has contributed to projects such as DubaiSat-1 and DubaiSat-2and spearheaded KhalifaSat, the first-ever indigenous satellite developed in the UAE, showcasing his commitment to the nation's advancement in Space technology. In 2014, Al Ghaferi earned the UAE’s Pride Medal.


Adnan Al Rais

Adnan Al Rais
Program Manager – Mars 2117 [MBRSC] and Assistant Director General of Space Operations and Exploration Sector [MBRSC]
Adnan Al Rais currently serves as the Assistant Director General of Space Operations and the Exploration Sector at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). Al Rais also serves as Mission Manager of the UAE Mars 2117 program, in which he is responsible for the development, design and implementation of the ground segment of the Emirates Mars Mission and also other future deep space missions undertaken by MBRSC. In addition, Al Rais is responsible for the commercialization of MBRSC projects, specifically the DubaiSat-1 and DubaiSat-2 satellites. He was also part of the team that built the UAE’s first ground station at the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science & Technology (EIAST) in 2007.


Saud Karmustaji

Saud Karmustaji
Director of Strategic Communication [MBRSC]
Saud Karmustaji is the Director of Corporate Communications Department at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre. Prior to his current role, he was head of operations for the UAE Astronaut Programme, playing a pivotal role in selecting, training, and launching the first batch of Emirati astronauts for specialized scientific and research tasks in space. Karmustaji's strategic insight was instrumental in the Emirates Mars Mission (Hope Probe). As a key member of the project's strategic planning team, he ensured the alignment and impactful delivery of the project's objectives. Karmustaji has served as Education Lead on the NanoSatellite Outreach Program (NSOP) and as the science and technology consultant of the Policies and Studies Office, both at MBRSC.


Heyam Al Blooshi

Heyam Al Blooshi
Space Systems Assembly and Testing Senior Engineer [UAESA]
Heyam Al Blooshi is a mechanical engineer who serves as the Space Systems Assembly and Testing Senior Engineer at the United Arab Emirates Space Agency. After graduating from the Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi in 2011, Al Blooshi was granted a research fellowship at NASA Ames Research Center, in California, where she worked for 5 months on the development and improvement of grey-water filtration system used in Space and Earth applications. After returning to the UAE, Heyam joined GASCO to work in Ruwais Fractionation Plant as a Planning Engineer. This made her the first female emirate mechanical engineer to work full time in an onshore field. She began working at the UAE Space Agency as a Design Engineer involved in UAE's Mars Mission.


Pete Withnell

Pete Withnell
Program Manager, Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt [LASP]
Pete grew up in Indiana and moved to Colorado in 1990 to enroll in the University of Colorado’s Aerospace Engineering Masters program. His professional career began at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) in 1994.  Pete has over 30 years’ experience in the space industry at LASP, developing space instrumentation and managing teams working on numerous interplanetary missions and programs.  He started his career as team lead on the SNOE (Student Nitric Oxide Explorer) program, providing professional oversight.  Pete advanced his expertise as a mission systems engineer and program manager when he led teams to develop mission designs and hardware/software implementation on later programs that include SORCE (Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment), AIM (Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere), TSIS (Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor), and CICERO (Community Initiative for Continuous Earth Remote Observation).