The United Arab Emirates launched its young space program on Monday with the official announcement of the UAE Space Agency's strategy.
Over the next five years, the region's first space research center will be set up in Al-Ain. Acting as an incubator for space research, the 100 million dirham project is a partnership between UAE University and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.
“The UAE Space Agency is committed to achieving the vision of the nation and the implementation of it’s ambitious strategy within space,” said Mohammed Al Ahbabi, the space agency's director general, according to The National .
“The UAE will become a shining star on the global map of the space industry, God willing."
With the aim of integrating the various branches of the nation's developing space industry, the strategy also plans to send 20 Emirati students on international and local travel as part of the UAE's first academic space program in cooperation with Yahsat, Masdar Institute and ATK Orbital.
Agency Chairman Khalifa Mohammed Thani al-Rumaithi also expressed his view that the space initiative would diversify the economy while creating skilled jobs for the UAE's younger generation.
"The United Arab Emirates is seeking to confirm its status as a spacefaring nation in which the industry plays a key role in sustainable economic development," he said, according to AP .
Announced just prior to the Gulf Space and Satellite Forum, which begins Tuesday, the strategy has been anticipated for sometime. In its fifth year, the forum brings together space industry experts including representatives from NASA.
The UAE Space Agency was created through a presidential decree last year. Currently the agency overseas the nation's Earth-orbiting satellites.
One of their big goals? To launch a mission to Mars in 2020. Already approximately 75 Emirati engineers are working on the Mars project with that number anticipated to double before the launch.
DubaiSat-1, the UAE's first government-backed satellite, launched into orbit via a Russian rocket in 2009. Since then DubaiSat-2 has also been launched.
Regardless of the bold announcement and previous success, Ahbabi admitted there will be challenges, especially for the planned Mars mission. “There are challenges, such as limited time,” he said, according to The National . “But we are very confident that we will achieve that project on time.”
Let's just hope the young space program doesn't go the way of so many of Dubai's planned building projects.