UAE Establishes Space Agency, Plans Mission To Mars By 2021

"We chose the epic challenge of reaching Mars because epic challenges inspire us and motivate us," said the country's vice president.

The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday established a space agency and announced plans to send an unmanned probe to Mars by 2021.

"We chose the epic challenge of reaching Mars because epic challenges inspire us and motivate us," Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, said in a statement. "The moment we stop taking on such challenges is the moment we stop moving forward."

Investments into the UAE's space technologies, including satellite mapping and communications, already exceed AED20 billion (US$5.44 billion). Though the government did not mention the expected cost of the program, the space agency, which will report to the Cabinet, will be financially and administratively independent.

Earlier this month, Dubai unveiled plans for another ambitious project, this one on planet Earth: a 48-million-square-foot climate-controlled pedestrian city housing an 8-million-square-foot mall, purportedly the world's largest.

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