The United Arab Emirates is establishing an official space agency with the goal of sending an uncrewed spaceship to Mars by 2021. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE vice president and ruler of Dubai, said in a statement that the space agency would be responsible for organizing the mission, developing the UAE's aerospace sector, and "maximizing the contribution of space industries to the national economy." Al Maktoum says the UAE has already invested 20 billion dirham ($5.4 billion) in space technologies, primarily satellites. The government's investment company owns satellite broadcasting system Yahsat, which recently announced plans to launch its third satellite in 2016. The Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST), established by the government of Dubai in 2006, launched its own DubaiSat-1 in 2009, with DubaiSat-2 following in 2013.
Our region is a cradle of great civilisations. Given the right tools Arabs, once again, can deliver new scientific contributions to humanity— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) July 16, 2014
"The new probe to Mars represents our Arab and Muslim world entering to the era of space exploration," says Al Maktoum; the UAE has called for a pan-Arab space agency since 2008. Elsewhere in the region, Iran has sent two monkeys into low-Earth orbit, though the survival of at least one was disputed. Egypt became the first African or Middle Eastern company to launch its own satellite in 1998. Japan, China, the US, Russia / USSR, and the European Space Agency have all attempted missions to Mars, but according to NASA's mission logs, only the latter three have seen success. An Indian explorer is currently en route, and the US is currently building towards a crewed mission in the 2030s.