The UAE has announced plans to send an unmanned probe to Mars by 2021, in a bid to send the Arab world’s first mission to another planet, official news agency WAM reported.
A new UAE Space Agency will be created to supervise the mission and coordinate the country’s space technology sector.
The probe’s journey will take nine-months and span more than 60 million kilometres, the report said.
The mission, to be led by emiratis, will make the UAE one of nine countries with space programmes to explore Mars, and will also coincide with the 50th anniversary of the country’s formation.
UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan said: “The UAE Mars probe represents the Islamic world’s entry into the era of space exploration. We will prove that we are capable of delivering new scientific contributions to humanity.
“The UAE’s purpose is to build emirati technical and intellectual capabilities in the fields of aerospace and space exploration and to enter the space industry and to make use of space technology in a way that enhances the country’s development plans.”
UAE VP and PM and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, said, “Despite all the tensions and the conflicts across the Middle East, we have proved today how positive a contribution the Arab people can make to humanity through great achievements, given the right circumstances and ingredients.
“We chose the epic challenge of reaching Mars because epic challenges inspire us and motivate us. The moment we stop taking on such challenges is the moment we stop moving forward.”
UAE investments in space technologies currently exceed Dhs20 billion, and the project will establish the space technology sector as a key component of the national economy in the future, WAM reported.
Sheikh Mohammed said the UAE Space Agency will be responsible for supervising and organising all space activities, developing the sector, ensuring knowledge transfer, enhancing the country’s position as a global player in aerospace, and maximising the contribution of space industries to the national economy.
The agency will report to the cabinet and have financial and administrative independence.
Sheikh Khalifa added: “We aim for the UAE to be among the top countries in the field of aerospace by 2021.”