Humans may not have ventured to the moon in more than four decades, but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost our ambition for visiting other worlds. Serious plans are now underway to put two space tourists in a commercially launched rocket that will circle the moon in a year or two.
Meanwhile, NASA continues its plans to put humans on Mars in the late 2020s or early 2030s. China and India have also announced plans for manned expeditions to the moon, with Mars as an eventual possibility too, later in this century.
These are all ambitious missions that should excite everyone who believes it is humanity’s destiny to explore the frontiers of space. But as ambitious as these plans may be, they are dwarfed in scope by the United Arab Emirates’ plan for the next century.
One of the world’s richest nations announced that it is planning to build a glistening city on Mars fit for habitation by 2117, a century from now. UAE engineers have already unveiled plans for a city the size of Chicago. The tiny oil kingdom is also rolling out scientific programs meant to create the kind of generational interest in space exploration needed to keep the effort vital and rooted. They would like scientific innovation and know-how in space to take the place of petroleum as its greatest export.
The initial leg of UAE’s plan begins with the launch of its first Martian probe in 2021. The Emirates plan to take the century-long march methodically given the obstacles that await humanity as we take our first steps beyond the moon. Just as there’s something inspiring about the mythical “city on a hill,” there’s something just as inspiring about a city on Mars, even if it isn’t an American city.