United Arab Emirates Wants To Send A Mission To Mars

The United Arab Emirates has entered the race for Mars.

The mega-rich nation, which is already home to the world's tallest building, said it wants to send an unmanned craft to the Red Planet in 2021.

If successful the plan would represent a major technical achievement for the nation, and would aim to celebrate its 50th anniversary as a country in style. The UAE celebrated independence from Britain in 1971.

"We chose the epic challenge of reaching Mars because epic challenges inspire us and motivate us," said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and UAE VP.

The UAE has for some time wanted to create a pan-Arabian space agency to match the European equivalent. Other space agencies with confirmed interest in Mars include NASA, which currently has two functioning robots on the red planet, China and ESA. What remains unclear is whether the UAE can develop its own space agency and know-how in time for the 2021 window, and whether its ambitions are long-term of merely symbolic.