In July 2014, the UAE Space Agency was born. The project’s aim is to send the first space probe from an Arab or Islamic country to Mars by 2021, which will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the country’s founding.
This shows that the UAE does not fear competition and it demonstrates that the country will take on challenges, no matter how impossible they seem.
As Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said: "‘Impossible’ is a word coined by those who do not want to work, or rather, those who do not want us to work … It can confine a person like a great prison."
Through the probe’s mission, the UAE is offering hope to the region. It will prove that there are bright spots in the Middle East and that the Arab people are engaged in the march of global progress. It shows that ISIL, Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and other violent groups are nothing but a deviation from the positive direction of the region.
This is the great civilisational role that the UAE is performing. The country is a source of inspiration for Arab and Muslim peoples.
When the Mars mission was announced in 2014, some might have viewed it with scepticism. Some may have even seen it as a delusional dream or an over-exaggerated aspiration.
However, the UAE, as always, plans for everything. It only takes calculated steps.
The appropriate executive steps are being made to prove to the world the UAE’s ability and determination to turn dreams into reality.
Hence, the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre was established in 2015, while national investments in the space industry have reached Dh20 billion. At the World Government Summit in Dubai in February, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, unveiled the Mars 2117 project, which aims to build the first human settlement on Mars within 100 years.
Steps have also been taken to build a strong base of scientific knowledge capable of implementing the space project with Emirati hands, minds and expertise. There are more than 150 UAE scientists and engineers working on this project.
This, undoubtedly, establishes a new scientific and technological reality in the UAE. What makes the space project even more important is the fact that it places great importance on exploring Mars. Statistics indicate that the total volume of the global space industry amounts to almost $300 billion, a figure that is growing by about eight per cent per year. If we ignore space, we ignore the track of global progress.
Knowing that the information collected from the UAE space project will benefit more than 200 research institutes and specialised studies centres around the world, the importance of the service the UAE is rendering to science is immediately clear.
This point was expressed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, who said: "The UAE has become part of the dynamic human scientific efforts to explore space and make scientific contributions to human knowledge. With the launch of this project, we begin a new journey that will last for decades to come, which will speed up humanity’s endeavours to explore other planets."
The UAE inspires Arabs with its space project, and with its values of tolerance, centrism, moderation, coexistence and acceptance of others. The UAE also inspires others with its wise policies and visions aimed at achieving happiness, peace, security and development for its people. Moreover, it inspires them with its desire to do the impossible.
In conclusion, I can confidently and proudly say: the UAE is the hope of the Arabs. It is their motivating force towards breaking free into the vast space of global progress.
Dr Jamal Sanad Al Suwaidi is the director general of the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research