UAE to Create Space Agency, Send Spacecraft to Mars in 2021

UAE_Coat_of_ArmsThe United Arab Emirates plans to establish a space agency and to launch for the first Arab spacecraft to Mars by 2021 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the nation’s founding.

“The UAE Mars probe represents the Islamic world’s entry into the era of space exploration,” said President Sheikh Khalifa, according to state news agency WAM.

“We will prove that we are capable of delivering new scientific contributions to humanity.

“We aim for the UAE to be among the top countries in the field of aerospace by 2021. We have a great belief in Allah and in the talents of our young people. We have the strongest determination, the greatest ambitions, and a clear plan to reach our targets.

“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.”

Sending a spacecraft to Mars would be a significant challenge for any space agency, especially for a first mission. It’s not clear whether the nation has the capability to build such a spacecraft, or if would be partnering with a foreign company.

UAE has made a number of investments in space technologies, including communications and remote-sensing satellites. Those efforts are led by the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST).

Abu Dhabi, which is one of the seven emirates that makes up UAE, has invested $390 million in Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic company, which is developing the SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism vehicle. There are plans to establish a spaceport in the UAE from which SpaceShipTwo would fly.