The United Arab Emirates (UAE) unveiled on Wednesday (6 May), details of its Mars mission. The UAE plans to send an unmanned probe to Mars by 2021, in the Arab world's first mission to another planet.
The probe will take nine months to complete the more than 37.5 million-mile journey to Mars, and will make the UAE one of only nine countries with space programmes exploring the Red Planet.
The launch date for the Mars probe, dubbed the Hope Probe is sometime around July 2020. It is expected to arrive on Mars just in time to coincide with the UAE's 50th anniversary of independence.
Vice-president of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum said he hopes the mission will inspire a new generation of scientists in the region.
"This mission to Mars is really for the hope of the Arab world and sending them a message to say: 'You can be better, you can improve your country, you can reach where you want," he said at a special event in the capital Dubai.
The main scientific mission is to collect data on Mars' climate and atmosphere.
"Our mission and the objectives of our mission is to provide the first ever holistic view of the Martian atmosphere and the changes in that atmosphere and the dynamics of that atmosphere," said Sarah Amiri, the deputy project manager for the Mars mission.
The data collected will be sent back to the UAE for analysis and will be shared for free with the international community of scientists.
With a population estimated at no more than about 8 million, most of whom are foreign workers, the UAE lacks the scientific and industrial base of the big spacefaring nations.
The work on the Mars probe could help to change that, if all goes to plan: the design, structure, and management of the probe will be done entirely by Emiratis, a team that currently stands at 75 engineers and scientists, but is expected to grow to more than 150 by 2020.
"The UAE wants to build scientists. They want to build and prepare experts in the field of science and technology and also in the field of space sciences. So that's why the UAE decided to go ahead with this mission and also to give hope for the different countries in the region and to increase the contribution of the region when it comes to scientific contribution," said Omran Shara, director of programme management at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre.
There are currently four UAE spacecrafts in Earth's orbit: Dubai SAT 1 and Dubai SAT 2, imaging satellites launched in 2009 and 2013. Communications satellites, Yahsat Y1A, and Yahsat Y1B launched in 2011 and 2012.