The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday launched a strategic framework for its newly-established space agency that aims to launch satellite missions and the “first Arab unmanned probe” to Mars by 2021.

Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, witnessed the launch of the Strategic Plan for the UAE Space Agency in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid was joined by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, deputy ruler of Dubai, UAE Minister of Finance Lt. Gen. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

“The establishment of a fully-fledged space sector in the UAE, with all necessary human resources, infrastructure and scientific research, is a primary national objective,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

“It requires everyone involved to work as one team to establish the UAE’s leadership in this sector and to build advanced scientific capabilities in the space domain,” he said.

“The Hope Probe (to Mars) and the UAE Space Agency are milestones for the development of the UAE. Today, we are at the dawn of a new era that holds the promise of ambitious advancements; an era in which we build our national capacity and establish a new international standing for the UAE in the space sector.”

The ceremony, held in the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, detailed the strategy of the UAE Space Agency with a programme including the agency’s mission, vision and priorities for the future.

The event also introduced a number of initiatives and programmes being carried out in line with the agency’s four strategic goals. These UAE Space Agency initiatives will pave the way for the UAE’s entrance into the global space sector as the agency works to organise and support the space sector in the UAE.

Members of the USE royal families, ministers, representatives of government agencies, national leaders and representatives from international space agencies toured the Space Experience and Exhibition Area, which includes a “Mini Space Museum” organised in cooperation with the Global Space and Satellite Forum (GSSF).

The GSSF aims to strengthen awareness of the space sector and is being held on May 26-27 in Abu Dhabi.

A memorandum of understanding was signed between between Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat), the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and Orbital ATK Inc.

The agreement between the three entities, with coordination and oversight from the UAE Space Agency, marks the launch of a joint venture to introduce a graduate degree programme in advanced space science for the first time in the Middle East.

The programme, which enjoys the support of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will allow students to earn a master’s degree in engineering with a focus on space systems and technology.

“The UAE’s focus on space is no mere impulse or whim,” Khalifa Mohammed Al Rumaithi, the chairman of the UAE Space Agency said in his introductory speech.

“The UAE’s path to space dates back to 1976, when the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan met the NASA team responsible for the Apollo Moon programme. That meeting inspired nearly three decades of efforts guiding the UAE towards space and will be realised with the arrival the Hope Probe at the red planet in the coming years