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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

The UAE’s space ventures

The Star Wars director J J Abrams in Abu Dhabi. AP Photo / Lucasfilm Ltd
The Star Wars director J J Abrams in Abu Dhabi. AP Photo / Lucasfilm Ltd

Space may be the final frontier, but in the UAE, it’s just the beginning. From sending an unmanned probe to Mars by 2021 to providing a backdrop for the latest Star Wars film, the sky isn’t the limit when it comes to ambition.

Mission to Mars

In July 2014, the UAE announced it would create a space agency, with plans to send a probe to Mars by 2021, which will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the country’s formation. Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE, said at the time: “The UAE Mars probe represents the Islamic world’s entry into the era of space exploration. We will prove that we are capable of delivering new scientific contributions to humanity.” He added that the UAE plans to be among the top countries in the field of aerospace by 2021. The mission to Mars will be led by Emiratis. Speaking in Washington last month, Mohammed Al Ahbabi, the director general of the UAE Space Agency, revealed that the UAE has so far invested Dh20 billion in the industry.

Mars One

Touted as the next giant leap for mankind, Mars One is aiming to establish a permanent human settlement on the Red Planet in 2026 – and two Dubai residents have been shortlisted for the project. Ritika Singh, 29, from India, and Mikolaj Zielinski, 38, from Poland, are among 100 hopefuls to make the cut, from an initial 202,586 applications. Zielinski told The National in February: “This has always been my dream. It’s an unusual experience that can help explain certain things related to science, like the history, geology and life on Mars.” The cost of putting the first humans on Mars has been estimated at $6 billion (Dh22.04bn). For more information, visit www.mars-one.com.

Star Wars VII

The UAE was abuzz last year when news broke that filming for a new Star Wars movie was happening in Abu Dhabi. The trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which is due in cinemas this December, opens with a shot of the dunes in the Western Region, representing the planet of Tatooine. Last June, the twofour54 chief executive Noura Al Kaabi told The National that it was likely a museum would be built to preserve sets and memorabilia from the film. These include a “shuttle-like” spacecraft, a large tower and buggies powered by jet engines.

atomlinson@thenational.ae