The United Arab Emirates plans to send an unmanned craft to Mars by 2021, to coincide with the Gulf nation’s 50th anniversary.
The probe would have to launch in 2020 and travel over 60 million kilometres in nine months, carrying instruments to study the Martian atmosphere.
If successful, it would be the first Arab and Islamic probe to reach the red planet.
“We wanted to re-live our legacy as Arabs, who were pioneers in sciences hundreds of years ago,” said Sheikha Al Maskari, Chief Innovation Officer at the UAE Space Agency.
“We made a big difference in the world, but why can’t we do it again? Why are some of the countries around us living in turmoil? We’re trying to change that,” she said.
A human settlement on Mars by 2117
The UAE Space Agency is showcasing its project at the Dubai Airshow, which runs until Nov. 16.
It’s an ambitious one for an agency that was only established three years ago.
It also hopes to set up the first inhabitable human settlement on Mars by 2117, one hundred years from now.
To achieve that, the government plans to build a complex of buildings, called Mars Science City. It would include a laboratory that mimics the Martian environment and terrain so astronauts and scientists can test their theories.
Veteran NASA astronaut Al Worden said he supports the plan, but the UAE would certainly require some help to carry it out.
“When we do go it’s going to be with somebody, lots of countries, all getting involved in making sure that we get to Mars,” he said.
“One of the countries will come out as a leader and everybody else will fall in line. But we’re going to do it as partners – it’s not going to be one country.”
With Associated Press