Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid and Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed with employees at the Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre on Wednesday. Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: A national space programme involving the building of the first city on Mars was launched here on Wednesday.

The national space programme was launched by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, as they visited the Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre.

The strategy will see the setting up of the first scientific city on the Red Planet as part of the 2117 Mars programme. The city will also include a museum and laboratories, in addition to a laboratory for conducting zero-gravity experiments. The national space programme will also include the Arab Space Discovery Programme, and launching the largest forum for international scientists specialising in the Red Planet.

Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid and Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed then launched the UAE satellite-manufacturing complex.

As part of the 100-year national programme, the UAE will set a long-term plan to prepare Emirati astronauts and set up the first human inhabited city on the Red Planet, as well as the Mars Probe landing on the planet over the next four years.

“The national space programme, which is the largest integrated scientific plan in the region, lays down a solid foundation for building Emirati cadres specialised in space science, and aims to nurture new generations that are able to achieve scientific breakthroughs to enrich human knowledge,” said Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid.

“We aim to send the first Emirati astronaut to space over the next years, because the UAE is the fastest and most capable of overcoming this challenge. From this day forward, we will work on training the first Emirati and Arab astronaut to join the team of scientist team working in the International Space Station,” he added.

“The UAE space project is a message to our Arab world that we have the ability to compete globally. Our main goal is to tell the world that we are able to contribute to the race of civilisations by making new scientific breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity,” said Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid.

Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed expressed his pride in scientific competencies of young Emiratis. “Investing in space is an investment in Emirati and Arab minds that will lead the UAE to greater heights. The UAE is heading to a new phase of scientific achievements and we will support our citizens to compete globally,” said Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed.

He underlined the UAE leadership’s keenness to provide its citizens with all the needed tools and potential that will open up new prospects for innovation, creativity and scientific excellence. “We strive to provide the best scientific environment for our citizens, so they can make development contributions to humanity. As of today, we plan for the next decades, because future Emirati generations deserve the best, and our youth are capable of making quality contributions. We want to have an active role in the human’s journey to space, and the UAE will be the first Arab country to reach Mars,” Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed said.

The 2117 Mars project will include organising a competition to select the best experiments that can be conducted in zero gravity and spaceships. It will also include a ‘Living on Mars’ project, which is an initiative to design and print the best buildings suitable for the Red Planet using 3D printing technology.

Emirati investments touched Dh20 billion in the space industry, an annual growth of 8 per cent, which positions the UAE among the top ten countries with the largest investments in the space industry. Global investments in the industry are valued at $300 billion.

Regarding the Arab Space Discovery Programme, it is a programme to transfer knowledge and expertise in space sciences in collaboration with Arab universities and institutions to benefit from brilliant Arab minds, and to set common scientific plans for space discovery.

Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid and Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed, accompanied by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince, Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, toured the centre and inspected the progress of work on KhalifaSat, which is the first Emirati satellite being developed fully by a team of Emirati engineers and scientists.

They also inspected the progress of work on the Hope Probe, the first Arab project that aims to explore Mars and strengthen the UAE’s leadership in the space sector. The project is being overseen by the UAE Space Agency, while the Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre will be responsible for developing the national space programme in collaboration with international space partners.