The UAE is planning to send the first ever unmanned Arab spaceship to Mars by 2021, according to the country’s vice president and ruler of Dubai, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
He said the mission would prove the Arab world is still capable of delivering scientific contributions to humanity, despite the many conflicts across the Middle East.
“Our region is a region of civilization. Our destiny is, once again, to explore, to create, to build and to civilize,” he continued in a statement.
The UAE has been at the forefront of efforts amongst the Arab League nations to create a pan-Arab space agency similar to the organisation in European, the European Space Agency.
While the cost of the mission wasn’t divulged, while reporting to the government’s Cabinet, it would be otherwise financially and administratively independent.
The probe will reportedly take nine months and travel more than 37 million miles to reach Mars, making the emirates one of only nine countries with space programs attempting to explore the planet.
The world’s overall success rate in Mars missions since the 1960s is less than 50-50. NASA has the best success rate at around 70 percent. It has sent 21 missions to Mars since the 1960s, and all but six have succeeded. The U.S. is the only nation so far to land and operate long-term an unmanned ship on Mars.
The UAE has already invested US $5.4 billion in space technology, including investments in satellite data, mobile satellite communications and earth mapping and observation.
Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey Indonesia, Pakistan and Iran already have space agencies or programs, the latter sending a monkey into space for the second time last year, returning it safely to earth
The Dubai ruler said his country chose the epic challenge of reaching Mars because it inspires and motivates.
“The moment we stop taking on such challenges is the moment we stop moving forward,” he said.