KARACHI, Oct 4: In Pakistan, there is a need to develop human resources and promote space sciences education, with a focus on the youth, to harness the many benefits that come from having a well-developed space programme.

Prof Dr Muhammad Qaisar, vice chancellor of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology, said this while speaking as the chief guest at the inaugural ceremony of World Space Week 2011, held at the headquarters of the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission here on Tuesday.

“In order to draw optimum benefit [from] space and related technologies, there is a strong need to develop human resources, create awareness, impart education and motivate the youth to conceive and develop space applications to serve humanity,” he said.

It was “our good fortune” to be part of the WSW, which is observed by over 50 countries worldwide, said Dr Qaisar, adding that having the edge in science and technology determined a nation's place in the world.

He said space offers immense opportunities in fields such as communications, astronomy, environmental monitoring as well as predicting natural disasters. He added that very few countries had established supremacy in space exploration and Pakistan needed to focus on this area.

He said seminars and workshops highlighting the space sciences should be held year-round and not be limited to Space Week. He suggested a seminar on space-related topics should be held at least once a month and offered to host the first such event on the Fuuast premises.

Acting chairman of Suparco Dr Sajid Mirza delivered the welcome address.

He said space had been a mystery as man has been gazing at the stars for thousands of years. However, with the launch of Sputnik I on Oct 4, 1957 the way for human exploration of space had opened up and now manned spaceflight had become routine.

He described the WSW as “the manifestation of the recognition and realisation of human efforts in the domain of space exploration and its impact on humanity”. Dr Mirza said the Government of Pakistan had realised the importance of space exploration early and launched Rehbar I, the nation's first rocket, in 1962 from Sonmiani. At the time Pakistan was the third country in Asia and the 10th in the world to launch such a craft. He added that Suparco planned to launch a remote-sensing satellite in the next few years.

The inaugural ceremony was followed by the departure of a 'space education bus', which is a custom-built vehicle that will tour the interior of Sindh for the next few days visiting schools to create awareness of space through using multi-media presentations and lectures. A seminar on '50 years of human spaceflight' was also organised, in which experts from Suparco spoke on different topics related to space sciences.

In his presentation, Ayaz Ameen described the benefits of space exploration, which included development of global positioning system technology, weather forecasting and the collection of agricultural data, space weather forecasting, exploration of the universe, searching for new energy sources as well as telemedicine.

Shafiq Ahmed gave a presentation about the development of remote sensing technology at Suparco over the past few decades. Other experts also spoke. However, the running theme throughout the seminar was the shortage of trained manpower in Pakistan as the experts urged the students present to pursue space sciences as a career as this was a national requirement.

Suparco has planned other events to observe Space Week in Karachi as well as throughout Pakistan, which include declamation contests, quizzes, model-making competitions for students, with lectures for teachers as well as general space-related activities.