|BC astronomer, Dr. Redouane Al Fakir.|
According to the December 5th, 2010 Canadian Press article, "Head of Muhammad Institute wants B.C. space-launch site," the institute is raising money to build a Canadian commercial space port off the coast of Vancouver using funds from private investors in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates plus other gulf and Muslim states.
The article quotes the head of the Muhammad Institute, Dr. Redouane Al Fakir as stating that his goal has always been to "return Muslims to the place of pride they held, centuries ago, as world leaders in astronomy."
To that end, Dr. Al Fakir says he's secured $250,000 in startup money from overseas sources and has begun an international fund raising drive to raise the estimated $100-million it would take to build the facility.
The three year old organization has a number of other projects on the go including an orbital telescope and a plan to land a small unmanned research spacecraft on the Moon by 2015 according to the October 25th, 2010 AhlulBayt News Agency post "Mohammd Moon Station to Be Set Up."
The organizations website at www.muhammadinstitute.org goes into quite a bit of detail about what they call Mohammad Moon Station 1 and offer the ability to participate in the mission with a symbolic donation so it would seem easy enough to dismiss their claims as simple publicity.
However the page listing the people at the Muhammad Institute include influential scientists and space advocates who I would be loath to dismiss without at least giving them some opportunity to follow up on their claims.
The September 1st, 2009 Vancouver Sun article "B.C. astronomer reviving Islamic science" reports substantial support among the BC based scientific community for the organization:
Al Fakir's far-reaching goals are being supported by dozens of the world's leading thinkers and scientists, including the former head of UBC's interdisciplinary studies program, Rhodri Windsor-Liscombe, and renowned UBC astronomer Bill Unruh.The fund raising for the spaceport will be done under the organizational umbrella of a company called Space Launch Canada and not under the banner of the Muhammad Institute, but $100 million CDN is a lot of money for any organization to raise.
"I find Redouane's plans highly commendable and ambitious," Unruh said.
"His goal ... is to try to increase the visibility and practice of science in the world's Muslim communities by bringing together their scientists with the best established scientists from around the world, independent of their religious or non-religious affiliation."
Unruh believes the wider scientific community feels "a lot of goodwill" toward Al Fakir's enterprise, as reflected in the long list of high-calibre scientists who have become associated with his plans.
However, I'm open to seeing what Dr. Al Fakir is able to generate over the next few years.