On Sunday, NASA issued a press release announcing they had just signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates. The agreement signifies cooperation between NASA and the UAE Space Agency in aeronautics research, space exploration, and the peaceful use and habitation of outer space. Other objectives covered by the agreement include collaboration in Earth and space science research, the establishment of educational programs, and outreach to relate the global benefits of space travel. Possible future cooperative projects include the joint use of certain airspace technologies, ground-based research facilities, and antennas. Above all, the agreement seeks to strengthen the diplomatic and economic relationships between the United States and the United Arab Emirates.
One of the biggest motivators for this partnership is the shared desire to journey to Mars. An "Implementing Arrangement" included in the agreement establishes Mars exploration as a top priority. Both NASA and the UAE Space Agency have previously entertained plans to send probes and even humans to Mars within the next few decades; plans which have been criticized as too costly and ambitious. It is hoped that with this partnership, respective Mars missions from the agencies can materialize sooner than expected.
The announcement of the partnership was unexpected. While representatives from both agencies had previously met in both NASA's headquarters and in Abu Dhabi, little signs had been given for such a large-scale agreement. Added to this is the fact that the UAE Space Agency has only been around for two years, although the country has held a notable outer space presence for a lengthy period of time. Perhaps to help establish credence, the UAE Space Agency has engaged in similar agreements with countries such as China, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Russia. All of these partnerships were worked out over the past year.
Despite this, it seems the UAE is especially excited about collaboration with the United States, already discussing plans to exchange scientists between the countries to further research. If both nations follow through on the partnership, space research and travel could hit remarkable milestones over the next few years.