NASA has signed a new agreement to work with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on space exploration. The agency has agreed to share everything from scientific data to telescopes and (potentially) spacecraft with the oil-rich Arab state, but says the first target for collaboration will be “the exploration of Mars.” The details of the agreement aren’t clear, but Khalifa Al Romaithi, chair of the UAE Space Agency, said the agreement “opens the door to the creation of a wide range of mutually beneficial programs [for] the UAE and the USA.”
NASA’S MARS PROJECT HAS BEEN CRITICIZED AS OVERAMBITIOUS
For NASA, deals like this seem intended to shore up its ambitious plans to take humans to the Red Planet by the 2030s. The agency’s Mars project has been under criticism recently, with Congress questioning last month whether such a mission is even affordable. (The total cost could end up exceeding a trillion dollars.) Others have suggested that establishing a base on the Moon as an intermediary step to a Martian colony makes more sense at our current level of technology.
Meanwhile, the UAE’s previous Mars ambitions have been limited to plans to send an unmanned probe to the planet by 2021. The country’s space agency also recently signed similar “cooperative” agreements with China, Russia, and the UK — placing the deal with NASA as only the latest in a string of partnerships. Nevertheless, NASA administrator Charles Bolden is confident about the fruits of this sort of “space diplomacy.” In a blog post written before the deal’s signing, Bolden said that such agreements unite us as a species. “Together, we can bring humanity to the face of Mars and reach new heights for the benefit of all humankind,” writes Bolden. “…And we will.”