Dubai: The UAE took the first step in building an unmanned Mars probe on Monday, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced on his twitter account.

Earlier this year, the UAE announced that it will be sending an unmanned spacecraft to Mars by 2021, coinciding with the country’s 50th anniversary. It was also announced that a UAE space agency will be created to supervise the mission and coordinate the country’s growing space technology.

“I witnessed today with all pride, the first steps towards building the first Arab, Islamic probe to reach Mars,” Shaikh Mohammad tweeted.

Officials did not elaborate further on first-step details stemming from the gathering at the UAE Space Centre.

“We started today, a seven-year journey with a national team; through it we will cross hundreds of millions of miles to build globally competitive Emirati individuals,” Shaikh Mohammad said on twitter

It is expected to take the probe nine months to cross more than 92 million kilometres to reach Mars.

“Building a Mars probe is a national job, a source of Arab pride and addition to human knowledge. We say to the people of our region join us in building a new history for our Arab nation,” he added on his social media account.

The UAE is one of only nine countries with space programmes to explore the Red Planet.

The mission, led by Emiratis, will expand the nation’s human capital through knowledge transfer from international partners, as well as increasing human knowledge about space exploration and distant planets.

Shaikh Mohammad said earlier that the UAE Space Agency would be responsible for supervising and organising all such activities, developing the sector, ensuring knowledge transfer, enhancing the UAE’s position as a global player in aerospace, and maximising the contribution of space industries to the national economy. The agency will report to the Cabinet and enjoy financial and administrative independence.

UAE investments in space technologies already exceed Dh20 billion, including satellite data and TV broadcast company, Al Yah Satellite Communications, mobile satellite communication company, Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications and Earth mapping and observation system, Dubai Sat.