If you thought Google Earth was fascinating, the first Emirati-made satellite just gave us something much more exciting.
On Friday, KhalifaSat snapped a photo of the world's largest mosque, Masjid Al Haram, in the Saudi city of Mecca. The mosque surrounds the Kaaba, the most sacred site in Islam, and encompasses 400,800 square meters of space.
The UAE officially launched the satellite in October 2018 in hopes of further supporting its ambitious space program, which aims to have a satellite orbiting Mars by 2021.
Back in 2006, a group of Emirati engineers traveled to South Korea to work on the development of DubaiSat-1 and DubaiSat-2, the UAE's first satellites. In March 2015, the engineers returned to the UAE and formed a 68-member local team that worked on completing the design for KhalifaSat. In fact, 90 percent of the engineers working on the project were graduates of Emirati universities.
The Emirati nation has proven just how serious it is about its space mission in recent years, so much that National Geographic is set to release a docu-series chronicling the country's journey into space. One such area to be covered is the country's launch of KhalifaSat.
This all comes as part of the UAE's space program.
In 2014, the UAE officially established a Space Agency and set an ambitious goal of launching a probe to Mars. Two years later, the Gulf state and NASA signed a deal to work together to reach the Red Planet. In 2016, the country set up the Emirates Mars Mission - which plans to send an unmanned spacecraft to explore Mars in 2020. The journey is expected to take seven months. In 2017, the UAE announced its plans to build the first-ever city on Mars ... in about 100 years. The Mars 2117 project is part of a 100-year national program that focuses on spearheading scientific breakthroughs like the renowned Mars Mission.
But, the country is not just limiting its space goals to the exploration of Mars. In 2018, two Emirati astronauts were selected to fly to the International Space Stations (ISS) - the first Arabs to get the opportunity to do so.
At the time, Dubai's Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced that Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi will become the country's first-ever nationals to go to space as part of the UAE Astronaut Program. The duo was chosen from a pool of 4,022 contenders who applied for Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center's UAE Astronaut Program, which aimed to find the nation's first astronauts.