Top international universities bid for Dubai's latest space challenge

Top universities including MIT and Oxford and Cambridge are competing for two million dirham research funds

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The challenge of living and working on Mars has literally come down to Earth with a new research project.

Dubai’s Space Settlement Challenge offers funding for the best research ideas to help humanity conquer space and the Red Planet.

Launched in February, the challenge has received more than 260 research proposals from 200 leading universities in 55 countries.

They include Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Stanford University in the United States and both Cambridge and Oxford University in the UK.

The challenge is organised by Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Accelerated Research, a new think tank created by Dubai Future Foundation.

Proposals include advanced bio-engineering for life support on Mars, to business models that will ensure the success of the space industry.


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The challenge has three categories, including discovering a landing site that could support up to 100 people, creating a viable life support environment and finally a model that would make best use of the private sector.

Between 20 and 30 of the proposals will eventually receive seed funding.

Khalfan Belhoul, the chief executive of Dubai Future Foundation said: “Our mandate is to identify the challenges of tomorrow and turn them into opportunities today for our nation and for humanity at large.

“The Centre for Accelerated Research will be tackling complex issues such as space settlement, digital economics, artificial intelligence and more.”

Dubai is also creating Mars Science City, a research and visitor centre that will explore what human colonisation of the planet might look like, to be built by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre.

Later this year, the KhalifaSat Earth observation satellite is due to be launched by the space centre, while selection continues for the UAE’s first astronaut training programme in conjunction with the UAE Space Agency.