The race to get the first manned mission to Mars gets heated as another actor enters the space exploration scene. Yesterday we learned about the newly chosen spaceport site of Elon Musk’s private space exploration and transportation company, SpaceX. Space programs are among the most expensive endeavors in human history and a Mars exploration program easily wins the first place. Private companies have so far benefited from the results provided by pioneering state funded space programs and mostly focused on launching utility satellites. So far, SpaceX is a pioneer among private companies because Musk, the highly successful entrepreneur, decided to back the project wholeheartedly.
During the Cold War, the fierce political battle drove the space exploration programs to deliver spectacular results in short amounts of time. SpaceX, who plans to establish a future efficient commercial space transportation program, is driven by business ideas. The newest actor in space exploration, The United Arab Emirates, claims that cultural reasons back their decision to launch a space program. “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,” said UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan. “”Our region is a region of civilization. Our destiny is, once again, to explore, to create, to build and to civilize,”, vicepresident Al Maktoum stated, according to Fox News.
UAE’s Mars exploration program to begin with a first flight in 2021
The UAE does not have prior experience with large scale space exploration programs. As in many other domains, due to their large quantities of oil, they will be able to rapidly acquire expertise and assemble the necessary structures. The efforts will not start from scratch, though. The UAE already invested $5.4 billion in satellite ventures, according to Reuters. Al Yah Satellite Communications, the data and television broadcast company, Thuraya, the mobile communication company and Dubai Sat, the company focused on mapping and observing the Earth, all received government money. The Arab state invested in airlines and high-tech constructions too.
The trip to Mars will last nine months because the distance from Earth is more than 60 million kilometers. Only nine other countries developed Mars exploration programs so far, but only the U.S. managed to send probes on Martian soil. The UAE’s Mars exploration program will have the first result in 2021, when the first Arab rocket to Mars will be launched.