Spaceflight Insider

United Arab Emirates to build ‘Mars Science City’

Mars Science City (4)

An artist’s rendering of Mars Science City, a new project unveiled by the United Arab Emirates. Image Credit: Dubai Media Office

A new project to build a Mars Science City in the United Arab Emirates was unveiled during annual government meetings on Sept. 26, 2017, in Abu Dhabi. The ambitious $136 million (AED 500 million) project was launched by Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The goal is to inspire youth to pursue careers in science and engineering as the UAE continues to position itself as an emerging player in space exploration.

The project is being led by a team of engineers from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre and Dubai Municipality in cooperation with architect Bjarke Ingels. The facility will include a series of domes manufactured using 3-D printing processes out of sand from the Emirati desert.

In addition to demonstrating construction and building techniques that could be employed in building a city on the Red Planet, Mars Science City will feature laboratories simulating the Martian surface to aid in the development of other technologies that could be used in Mars exploration. Project planners also hope to combat problems on Earth using technology developed for the project.

“The UAE seeks to establish international efforts to develop technologies that benefit humankind,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid in a news release. “We also want to consolidate the passion for leadership in science in the UAE, contributing to improving life on Earth and to developing innovative solutions to many of our global challenges.”

A central part of the project will involve having a team living in the simulated city for one year to spur innovation in self-sufficient technologies related to energy, water, and food, with possible implications for developing new technologies for use on Earth. Current concepts for the first large bases and cities on the Red Planet involve in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) to build and operate the facilities. Mars Science City would be the first large-scale test of a facility on Earth to employ ISRU techniques that could one day be used on Mars.

The UAE is also one of several nations building a spacecraft to send to Mars during the 2020 launch window. The Emirates Mars Mission will be the first robotic spacecraft designed to explore the Red Planet launched by an Arab or Muslim country. Mars Science City would be another step in further developing the UAE’s space exploration capabilities and partnerships.

“We have great confidence in our national work teams,” said Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed in a news release, “and Emirates Mars Mission proves that our youth are trustworthy and capable of achieving national ambitions.”

Mars Science City (2)

An artist’s rendering of the interior of Mars Science City. It will house laboratories and facilities made using 3D printers with local materials. Image Credit: Dubai Media Office



Paul is currently a graduate student in Space and Planetary Sciences at the University of Akransas in Fayetteville. He grew up in the Kansas City area and developed an interest in space at a young age at the start of the twin Mars Exploration Rover missions in 2003. He began his studies in aerospace engineering before switching over to geology at Wichita State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in 2013. After working as an environmental geologist for a civil engineering firm, he began his graduate studies in 2016 and is actively working towards a PhD that will focus on the surficial processes of Mars. He also participated in a 2-week simluation at The Mars Society's Mars Desert Research Station in 2014 and remains involved in analogue mission studies today. Paul has been interested in science outreach and communication over the years which in the past included maintaining a personal blog on space exploration from high school through his undergraduate career and in recent years he has given talks at schools and other organizations over the topics of geology and space. He is excited to bring his experience as a geologist and scientist to the Spaceflight Insider team writing primarily on space science topics.

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