NASA announced Sunday that it had signed an agreement to work with the United Arab Emirates on space exploration and aeronautics research. In addition to sharing scientific data, research facilities and even spacecraft, the collaboration will also focus on one of NASA’s key pursuits for the foreseeable future — exploration of Mars.

“NASA is leading an ambitious journey to Mars that includes partnerships with the private sector and many international partners,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. “I am confident this new framework agreement with the UAE Space Agency will help advance this journey, as well as other endeavors in the peaceful exploration of outer space. Already, technical experts from our two countries are engaged in discussions on several areas of mutual interest, and I believe our two agencies will collaborate for years to come through a common interest in aeronautics, exploration and discovery.”

NASA aims to send the first humans to Mars sometime in the 2030s, and is currently working on perfecting the Space Launch System rocket and the Orion Spacecraft that it hopes will eventually ferry humans. Last October, the space agency also signed an agreement with the Israel Space Agency to expand cooperation in space exploration and research — an agreement the ISA said would be vital for any future missions to Mars.

nasa-uae_signing NASA on Sunday announced that it had signed an agreement to work with the United Arab Emirates on space exploration and aeronautics research. Photo: NASA

The UAE has, on its part, also revealed plans to send an unmanned probe to the red planet — “the first by an Arab, Islamic country.” However, it has not disclosed a budget or a timeline for such a mission. Over the past few months, the country’s space agency has also signed agreements with Russia, the U.K. and China to increase collaboration in research and space exploration.

In addition to the exploration of Mars, NASA and the UAE Space Agency will also aim to “facilitate the exchange of scientific data, scientists, engineers.”

“The space sector serves as a catalyst for economic development and diversification, creating job opportunities and enabling scientists and engineers to become leaders of an industry that can bring huge benefits to our daily lives,” UAE Space Agency Chairman Khalifa Al Romaithi said in the statement.

Al Romaithi welcomed the collaboration calling the UAE and the U.S. "long-standing allies" with strong economic, diplomatic and cultural relations.  

“We at the UAE Space Agency genuinely welcome the opportunity to collaborate and work with the USA and NASA in the fields of aeronautics, space science, and the peaceful exploration of outer space toward the common goal of fostering the well-being of humankind,” Al Romaithi said.