Are you ready for an interplanetary road trip? A deal inked by NASA and the United Arab Emirates Space Agency could transform humanity into a spacefaring people within the span of a couple of generations.
The newly announced agreement gets us one giant leap closer to putting people on the Red Planet by 2030. This is a goal NASA has remained committed to achieve, despite difficulties in government funding. The oil-rich UAE, whose space agency was just created in 2014, has been developing plans to send an unmanned probe to Mars by 2020.
"Mars is a rich destination for scientific discovery and robotic and human exploration as we expand our presence into the solar system," the agency says on its website. "Its formation and evolution are comparable to Earth."
In the early hours of June 12, 2016, representatives of NASA and the United Arab Emirates' Space Agency formally agreed to collaborate. The decision came on the heels of meetings at NASA's Washington, D.C., headquarters and the UAE's space program offices in Abu Dhabi, during which there were talks of cooperatively exploring space.
The agreement includes "cooperation and collaboration in space science, operational Earth observation and Earth science, aeronautics, space operations and exploration, education, technology, safety and mission assurance."
The agreement also could lead to the joint use of data acquisition, aircraft, spacecraft, scientific instruments and information. The UAE has entered similar agreements with China, Russia, the UK and Japan. As for NASA, there are agreements made as recently as 2015 with the Israel Space Agency and partners in the private sector. It's all part of a bid to send the first humans to Mars by refining a space launch system and the Orion Spacecraft, which is designed to carry people.
A joint steering group will guide further collaboration and future projects between NASA and the UAE Space Agency. The next step, estimated to take place by 2020, is to send a robotic mission to "capture and redirect an asteroid to orbit the moon" as a way to test new systems and capabilities, NASA says.