The United Arab Emirates is home to some ridiculous and very expensive things, thanks to their massive energy wealth. Dubai boasts the world's tallest tower, ATMs that spit out gold, indoor skiing in a high-class mall, and, of course, a "6D" movie theater. You can also play polo on a camel at Dubai Polo Club, but apparently, all that just isn't enough for that emirate's ruler, because Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has decided to launch a spaceship to Mars.
The UAE is working to establish a space program, and the first Arab spaceship aims to go to Mars in 2021. Al Maktoum, who is also the vice president of the UAE, said "Our region is a region of civilization. Our destiny is, once again, to explore, to create, to build and to civilize." The UAE has long been pushing to create a pan-Arab space program, which would be similar to the European Space Agency. This particular spaceship will be unmanned.
The government did not disclose how much this flight to Mars is expected to cost, but I would guess it's probably more than you can get out of a gold bar dispensing ATM. Thus far, the UAE has invested $5.4 billion in space technologies, though they have not yet a person in orbit.
Still, no matter the cost, the Emirates are set on getting in the space race and better late than never. Ruler of the emirate of Abu Dhabi and UAE President Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nayhan said this spaceship headed for Mars “represents the Islamic world’s entry into the era of space exploration.”
While the UAE officials are feeling generous, I wonder if they'll build me a tennis court like this:
That's close enough to Mars for me.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.