The United Arab Emirates (UAE) wants to build a city on Mars. But before it does so, it has announced its intentions to build a $140 million test city right here on Earth.
Called the Mars Scientific City, it would span a huge 177,000 square meters (1.9 million square feet), with large domes housing people, plants, and more.
The purpose of the project is to simulate what it might be like to live in a habitat on Mars. Several projects have already done this, such as HI-SEAS in Hawaii, but the UAE’s would be considerably bigger.
"The new project is another step in the UAE’s leading contributions to the global science movement,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the UAE, in a statement. “We seek to set an example and motivation for others to participate, and contribute, to humanity’s march into space."
The design of the city comes from Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. The buildings will include laboratories for food, energy, and water, in addition to agricultural testing. And there will also be a museum to display humanity’s greatest space achievements.
It won’t be quite like living on Mars of course, considering that residents won’t need to produce their own oxygen. Nor will they have to contend with Mars’ gravity, which is a third of what we have on Earth. Our atmosphere also keeps people much safer from cosmic radiation.
The plan is for at least one dedicated team to live inside the new habitat for a year, although it’s not clear if there will also be permanent inhabitants. The goal will be to practice for an eventual manned mission to Mars, by testing out waste and water management, along with various farming methods.
In February this year, the UAE said it wanted to send people to Mars and build a settlement there by 2117. That’s a bit later than Elon Musk’s plan, mind. Before that, as part of an Emirates Mars Mission, it's planning to launch an orbiter to the Red Planet in July 2020. Called Hope, it would arrive in early 2021 to study the planet.
So far, the UAE has only launched a few small satellites. But they’ve certainly got the money to follow through with their ambitions if they decide to do so.