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UAE plans mission to Mars

Unmanned probe to Red Planet to be launched by 2021 as first space venture in Arab world

UAE plans mission to Mars
The mission to the Red Planet will be a great technical challenge as the relative positions of Earth and Mars vary so wildly.

The United Arab Emirates today announced a plan to send an unmanned probe to Mars by country's 50th anniversary in 2021, becoming the first Arab nation to explore space.

The plan was announced as the Gulf state revealed it would set up its own Space Agency, which would report to the UAE Cabinet but would remain financially and administratively independent. If the 2021 launch is successful the body would be the world's sixth space agency to operate a Mars exploration programme.

"We aim for the UAE to be among the top countries in the field of aerospace by 2021," said His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi.

"We have a great belief in Allah and in the talents of our young people. We have the strongest determination, the greatest ambitions, and a clear plan to reach our targets."

The distance between Earth and Mars varies wildly. Their closest possible positions occur when Earth is at its farthest point from the sun (known as aphelion) and Mars is at its closest point (perihelion) and both planets are on the same side of the sun. This state is known as opposition and still varies greatly. Between 2007 and 2020 the range is 57.6m km (July 2018) to 100.7m km (March 2012), according to figures published by Universe Today. The closest the two planets have been in recorded history was 56m km in 2003. When not in opposition, they can be as much as 400m km apart.

"We chose the epic challenge of reaching Mars because epic challenges inspire us and motivate us," said His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. "The moment we stop taking on such challenges is the moment we stop moving forward."

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