The United Arab Emirates (UAE) formally announced on May 6, 2015, its intention to launch an an indigenously built probe to Mars by July 2010 and have it in orbit around the Red Planet by 2021 to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE.
This is more than just a prestige space mission – though it will have plenty of that for the UAE since, if successful, the probe will be the first Arab and Islamic spacecraft launched for space exploration. More importantly, however, the probe will actually contribute to scientific knowledge about Mars by collecting data on the Martian climate. The science from the UAE mission to Mars will be shared freely with scientists around the world.
This mission is also important because it is demonstrative of the rapid changes occurring in the space sector around the world. The UAE is on the cusp of graduating from an emerging space power – of which there are at least 50 around the world – to an established (and hopefully accomplished) space power. There are geopolitical implications too. The UAE is likely to emerge as the space hub for both the Middle East and for Africa, and will therefore accrue global influence. In fact, the UAE Space Agency has already established a cooperative relationship with the French space agency, CNES, and is engaged in government-to-government space dialogues with a number of other countries, including the United States.
The slick video posted above is a great overview of the UAE mission to Mars. Some might be tempted to dismiss the UAE’s space ambitions, and certainly they face a great number of technological and other challenges. But don’t write these guys off – I’ve met a number of them and they are professional, serious, and have the engineering, scientific, and financial capacity and resources to pull this off.
They’re serious, and everyone I speak with in U.S. and European space circles take them very seriously.
I’m rooting for them, and I hope they achieve – and exceed – their dreams and ambitions in space.