The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has a plan to build a major city on Mars by the year 2117.
The UAE wants to take the lead on this monumental effort, but officials acknowledge collaboration with other governments is necessary for any real chance of success.
“Human ambitions have no limits, and whoever looks into the scientific breakthroughs in the current century believes that human abilities can realize the most important human dream,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s vice president, said in a statement announcing the plan.
The UAE built a virtual version of its “Mars 2117 experience” and recently put it on display at the World Government Summit in Dubai.
“The city is roughly the size of Chicago,” Saeed Al Gergawi, a UAE scientist who helped develop the simulation, told CNBC. “We came up with that number because it’s like someone going to an exotic island, not everyone can go first, then we get advancement of rocket tech, which makes people move there easily, then the advancement of oxygen tech to make it more earth like, which would incentivize people.”
The UAE’s constitution enshrines Islam as the state religion and specifically notes “Sharia is a main source of [the UAE’s] legislation.”
UAE’s space agency announced plans in November to send an unmanned probe to Mars in 2021.
The UAE hopes the project will be the “catalyst for a new generation of Arab scientists and engineers,” which will help create an Arab space industry. The UAE openly acknowledges that symbolism was part of the reason for the mission.
“Look back in history, the Middle East was once a powerhouse for innovation and science,” Ibrahim Al Qasimi, the deputy project manager of the probe, says in the video announcing the Mars probe. “Muslim civilizations were once pioneers in mathematics and astronomy. This will be the first ever Arab Islamic mission to another planet.”
NASA signed a pact to cooperate in space with the UAE in June at a meeting in Abu Dhabi. The pact is part of Obama’s NASA Director Charles Bolden’s effort to “to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science.”
It is unclear how NASA expects to benefit from the pact, as the UAE’s program is far behind America’s space agency. The UAE launched its first satellite in 2009 and has only scheduled the launch of four satellites. NASA launched its first satellite in 1958 and has put more than 500 satellites into orbit and conducted more than 100 manned missions into space.
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