Last Wednesday there was an announcement by the United Arab Emirates that by 2021 they would be sending an unmanned craft to Mars – this venture just happens to coincide with the countries 50 year anniversary. Oh, and they were also creating a space agency so that someone would supervise the mission.
Actually while they have an astonishing knowledge of the science involved, they have no space agency at this time to speak of.
So a UAE plan most likely will be for an orbiter spacecraft: the sending of a rover is usually further along in the development.
How this agency will be formed? In the beginning it will most likely be engineers who will design the instruments and equipment that will be used. Down the line local talent, and there is plenty of local talent from their Arab Union of Astronomy to their education system & universities to at work scientists.
While the concept might bang up against some resistance in most Arab countries, the UAE is more forward thinking. And backward thinking. That is to say that like the Martian in his hay-day, the Arab lands had lots of rain, rivers, and then the weather changed and their lands became a desert. Of course the Martian would have felt his lands freeze due to low temperatures and the distance to the Sun, but it all became a frozen desert none-the-less.
To prepare for their own space agency the UAE is now aiming to update and add to the curriculum in the colleges and universities as well as have science classes in younger ages reach out to get the children interested not in just science and mathematics but in space and what is out beyond our atmosphere.
At this time the cost of the mission cannot be estimated mostly due to the continuous increases in prices – probably hundreds of millions.
In this time of great advances and amazing discoveries we welcome a new presence to join all the other space agencies from other countries around the world and to take those first important steps out into the universe; to the moon, to Mars, to Europa, Saturn and Pluto and beyond