India plans to launch a space probe that will orbit Mars, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh confirmed on Wednesday Image Credit: AP

Abu Dhabi: When a new UAE space probe blasts off toward the red planet Mars in 2021, it will mark the first entry into space exploration by an Islamic country, said President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The UAE space agency will also be created to supervise the mission and coordinate the country’s growing space technology, it was announced on Wednesday.

Shaikh Khalifa said the mission will help build Emirati technical and intellectual capabilities, and enhance the country’s development plans.

“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,”

Sending a space probe to Mars will make the UAE the first Arab country and one of only nine countries with space programmes to explore Mars.

The 60 million kilometre journey, which will take nine months to complete, will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the UAE’s formation.

“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,” said His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice- President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The mission will be led by Emiratis to expand the nation’s human capital through knowledge transfer from international partners. It will also increase human knowledge about space exploration and distant planets.

The UAE’s 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.

Shaikh Mohammad said the UAE Space Agency would be responsible for supervising and organizing 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.

Globally, space technologies are becoming increasingly important to the security and economy of nations, in many cases backed by massive national programmes and establishments.

The sector is integral to many aspects of life from telecommunications and navigation to broadcasting and monitoring of weather and natural disasters.

The industry is estimated to be worth around $300 billion (Dh1,101 billion) globally and growing by around 8 per cent annually.

“We aim for the UAE to be among the top countries in the field of aerospace by 2021. We have a great belief in Allah and in the talents of our young people. We have the strongest determination, the greatest ambitions, and a clear plan to reach our targets,” Shaikh Khalifa said.