In an effort to simulate what life will be like living on Mars, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will build a £100m city in the middle of the desert.
The “Mars Science City” project was unveiled at a meeting of the UAE government this week and will consist of gigantic domes covering a 1.9 million-square-foot area.
It will house a team of researchers who will live there for a year carrying out experiments involving food, water and energy needs on the distant planet. The UAE hopes to eventually build a fully-formed Martian settlement within the next 100 years.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, ruler of Dubai, said: “The UAE is a great country with vision and understanding of the challenges we face and the rapid changes our world is experiencing.
“We believe in the potential of space exploration, and in collaborating with global partners and leaders in order to harness the findings of this research and movement that seeks to meet people’s needs and improve quality of life on Earth.”
The project is part of the UAE’s overall “Mars 2117 Strategy” which involves establishing a human base on Mars that will house up to 600,000 people, complete with oxygen supplies and inner-city transportation.
“The landing of people on other planets has been a longtime dream for humans. Our aim is that the UAE will spearhead international efforts to make this dream a reality,” the Sheikh said.
An exact timeline is hard to come by, but the country has previously announced it plans to launch a space probe to Mars in 2020. The “Hope” probe will orbit the planet and study it for the next three years.
“The Mars 2117 Project is a long term project, where our first objective is to develop our educational system so our sons will be able to lead scientific research across the various sectors,” Sheikh Mohamed said .
He also said that the knowledge outcomes of the research project will be available for all international research institutions; adding that the objective of the research is to contribute in facilitating people lives on earth as well, mainly in the domains of transportation, energy and food.
Saeed Al Gergawi, manager of the scientific and research committee of the World Government Summit, told CNBC said people will be offered incentives to make the journey to Mars.
“We came up with that number [600,000] because it’s like someone going to an exotic island, not everyone can go first, then we get advancement of rocket tech, which makes people move there easily, then the advancement of oxygen tech to make it more earth like, which would incentivize people,” he said.
The UAE’s plan isn’t the only one for sending humans up to Mars. SpaceX has also talked about setting up on the red planet.
It has said it will send one of its Dragon 2 spacecrafts to Mars next year.
The ambitious deadline has been set because 2018 is the next time Earth and Mars will be at the closest point in their orbits. After that, it’s a two-and-a-half year wait for the next opportunity.
Getting to the Martian surface has been the aim of SpaceX and its billionaire founder Elon Musk since the company was formed in 2002. Eventually, the company hopes it will be able to “terraform” and colonise the planet.