UAE to launch space mission to Mars

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UAE plans to send 'first Arab, Islamic probe' to the red planet

Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al-Maktoum attends the opening ceremony of the Dubai Airshow in 2013 (AFP)
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Last update: 
Friday 13 February 2015 2:45 UTC
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After building the world's tallest building and the world's largest indoor ski resort, the United Arab Emirates took the first steps toward sending an unmanned probe to Mars on Monday, in the Arab world’s first mission to another planet.

“I witnessed today with all pride, the first steps towards building the first Arab, Islamic probe to reach Mars,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the UAE's Prime Minister tweeted.

"The sky’s the limit for our ambitions but that requires a team determined enough to attain this,” Maktoum said.

In July, the UAE joined eight other countries including the US and Russia who all have ambitions to reach Mars.

The unmanned probe will take nine months to complete the more than 60 million-kilomter journey to Mars, and is scheduled to arrive in 2021 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the UAE.

With a population estimated at no more than about eight million, most of whom are foreign workers, the UAE lacks the scientific and industrial base of the big spacefaring nations.

UAE investments in space technologies have already topped $5.44bn

The only other space programme established in the Middle East was set up in the 1960s in Beirut by a group of Lebanese scientists and engineers known as the Lebeanese Rocket Society.

The society gained fame in Lebanon after a series of successful launches of Cedar rockets which in 1962 prompted President Fuad Chehab to announce limited governmental funding for the group which was also contacted by the Lebanese military to develop weapons. However, the society which came to fame a few years ago thanks to an award-winning documentary did not survive the region's tensions and was dissolved in 1966, prior to the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War.