The list of countries that have mounted successful missions to Mars is not exactly long: the US and Russia, as you'd expect, and more recently India. But now the United Arab Emirates has an ambitious plan to enter the race as soon as 2020.
The mission would consist of a probe named 'Hope', launched sometime in 2020, which would spend a few years in orbit, contributing to scientific understanding of Mars's atmosphere, observing clouds and changes in atmospheric layers.
More than just contributing to scientific understanding of the Red Planet, though, the UAE Space Agency is hoping that a high-profile space mission will put them more firmly on the map. The global space industry is worth $US300 billion a year, and while competition is fierce — both from national agencies and Elon Musk's rocket ships — the UAE is hoping to capture some of that market. And, if they manage to send back some top-quality science in the process, who's going to complain? [Forbes]