India’s Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, formally approved the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the United Arab Emirates Space Agency.
The approval occurred on 25 May 2016 in New Delhi where the Union Cabinet met, and will now result in the creation of a Joint Working Group between ISRO and the UAE Space Agency that will oversee joint space exploration and science programmes.
An immediate priority for this Indian-Emirati Joint Working Group is cooperation on exploring Mars. The UAE Space Agency is responsible for building the Hope Mars Mission that is to be launched by 2020 in order to enter Mars orbit by 2021, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Arab Emirates. ISRO has been selected to launch the Hope Mars Mission in 2020.
Among the other tasks of the Indian-Emirati Joint Working Group on space cooperation are to draw up timeframe for cooperative programmes and identify the means to implement them.
Space cooperation has long been an aim of burgeoning Indian and UAE relations. Indian Prime Minister Modi visited the United Arab Emirates in August of 2015 where space cooperation was discussed, and Emirati officials visited India in September of 2015 where it was also discussed as part of the 11th India-UAE Joint Commission for Economic and Technical Cooperation.
ISRO has had remarkable success with its own Mars mission, the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM – also known as Mangalayaan) that was launched from India on 5 November 2013 and has been in orbit around Mars since 24 September 2014. Mangalayaan carries five scientific instruments designed to conduct atmospheric, particle environment, and surface imaging studies.
Most remarkably, the entire cost of ISRO’s Mangalayaan mission – including launch – is thought to be US$73-million. Compare this to the cost of similar US and European Mars missions that usually cost anywhere from hundreds of millions to billions of US dollars.