The UAE plans to build a new city… on Mars

The United Arab Emirates is no stranger to ambitious architecture. Dubai is home to the world’s tallest building, the world’s biggest shopping mall and the world’s only man-made islands shaped like a map of the world. In the run-up to the World Expo 2020, Dubai’s construction sector has been roaring back to life, with developer Nakheel recording its best ever profits in 2016 and the emirate also announcing plans to create the world’s largest airport, Al Maktoum.

None of these Earthbound accolades, though, compare to the UAE’s new aim: to build a new city on Mars.

Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, announced their plans this week, unveiling what they have christened the Mars 2117 Project. The plan is simple: build the first inhabitable human settlement on the red planet by the year 2117.

The idea sounds out of this world, but mankind has been gazing to its neighbour increasingly seriously in recent years. Elon Musk and SpaceX are planning to send people to Mars in 2024, while Stephen Petranek, author of How We’ll Live on Mars, predicts that humans will live on the red planet as early as 2037. Several years ago, one colonising program called Mars One advertised for volunteers willing to train as astronauts before being shipped off to the planet in 2031.

As timelines for these projects will no doubt fluctuate, the UAE may prove to be the best candidate to finally achieve the seemingly impossible. It is among the top nine countries in the world that invest in the space sciences and plans to accelerate research in this domain. Indeed, in 2015, the UAE announced its Mars Probe mission, which will send the Arab world’s first spacecraft to the planet in a scientific exploration mission that will land in 2021.

“The new project is a seed that we plant today, and we expect future generations to reap the benefits, driven by its passion to learn to unveil a new knowledge,” Sheikh Mohammed explained. “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 Mars 2117 Project is a long term project,” added Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, “where our first objective is to develop our educational system so our sons will be able to lead scientific research across the various sectors.”

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. The project will start with an Emiratis scientific team and will be extended to include international scientists and researchers.

The ambitious scheme was launched alongside the 5th World Government Summit, with an Emirati team of engineers, along with a group of scientists and researchers, creating a concept demo showcasing what it would be like to live on Mars, as well as suggesting infrastructure works and materials used for the construction of the city. You can see a photo of the VR demonstration of the proposed city, tweeted by Sheikh Mohammed, above.