The UAE on Wednesday said it has entered the space race with a project to send an unmanned probe to Mars by 2021.
A new UAE Space Agency will be created to coordinate the country’s growing space technology sector and to supervise the mission.
The probe will take nine months to make the more than 60 million kilometre journey to Mars and will mark the UAE out as one of only nine countries with space programmes to explore the Red Planet.
The project aims to develop Emirati human capital and boost the space technology industry as a sustainable driver of the UAE's increasingly diversified economy, a statement said.
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."
He added: "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."
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE's vice president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai, 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.
"Our region is a region of civilisation. Our destiny is, once again, to explore, to create, to build and to civilise.
"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," he added.
Sheikh Mohammed said the UAE Space Agency will be responsible for supervising and organising all such activities, developing the sector, ensuring knowledge transfer, and enhancing the UAE’s position as a global player in aerospace. The agency will report to the Cabinet and enjoy financial and administrative independence.
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