The United Arab Emirates has officially entered the space race to Mars, with the oil rich nation launching a new program designed to settle humans on the Red Planet by 2117.

The Arab nation established its space agency only in 2014, but the government has since poured millions of dollars into raising the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center on the desert sands.

In its three years of existence, the nascent agency has linked arms through formal agreements with other space-faring nations, such as the US, Russia, and China.

Now UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum hopes that, with the Mars Project 2117, the agency can help build the “first inhabitable human settlement” in the next 100 years.

The long-term project will focus on boosting the UAE’s space research capacity, with a view to making the wealthy Persian Gulf country one of the top players vying for a place on Mars.

A team of Emirati scientists and engineers will also be charged with streamlining efforts as well as drawing up a blueprint for Red Planet colonies.

It comes in the same week that Dubai hosted the fifth World Government Summit on social, economic and futuristic developments.

Sheik Mohammed said he expected UAE to be involved in a journey to benefit future generations. He has also since tweeted a number of images that appear to be design concepts for Mars settlements.

“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,” he said on Tuesday.

In 2020, the UAE space scientists say they will fire a probe to Mars in an effort map the toxic gas planet’s turbulent weather.

“The rocket must blast off from Earth during a brief ‘launch window’ in July 2020. This is because the Earth and Mars orbit the Sun at different rates, and are aligned at their closest point only once every two years,” a UAE space center statement read.

“If any part of the mission is not ready in time or fails at the last minute, there may be no second chance.”

The Hope probe will orbit about 22,000km (14,000 miles) above the Red Planet.

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