Mars has long been eyed for possible human colonization, despite the sheer lack of breathable atmosphere, liquid water, or sources of food. It’ll totally be fine, though, because we have science and stuff. I’m sure we’ll figure it out by the time we get there! Let’s just keep throwing money and smart people at the problem and it’ll solve itself.
Such seems to be the thinking of a team of well-meaning but perhaps shortsighted engineers, scientists, and emirs in the United Arab Emirates who have announced their lofty “Mars 2217” concept. Despite not having a formal space agency or a history of any space travel whatsoever except for a nanosatellite that hitched a ride on an Indian rocket, rulers in the UAE believe they can put a colony straight out of 1960s sci-fi on the Red Planet.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and ruler of Dubai, claims that this project is about “planting a seed” in the minds of young academics and students in the UAE in order to one day blossom into a full-fledged Mars colony:
Mars 2117 project aims at building a scientific and cognitive capabilities of UAE and transforming our universities to research centers, while planting the passion for leadership in future generations. The new project is the seed we set today and we expect to see its results in the new generations that will be led by passion for science to reach new human cognitive limits. There are no limits to human imagination.
There certainly aren’t. Reactions around the internet have been mixed, with some calling this one of the most “bullshit missions to Mars” ideas to date. The UAE’s mission announcement comes on the heels of China’s lofty Mars goals and, of course, the starry-eyed (Martian-eyed?) Mars colonization plans of Tony Stark’s real-world equivalent, Elon Musk. However, none of those other concepts demonstrates the high-concept retrofuturistic stylishness of the UAE's plans. If you're gonna go to space, you might as well look good doing it, right?
Ultimately, all of this international and private sector competition to put humans on Mars is a good thing for the future of humanity. While some of these might just be the pipe dreams of bored, wealthy entrepreneurs, at least one of these missions is bound to succeed, right? Only if we can get it off the ground before the big one hits.