The United Arab Emirates is preparing to be the first Islamic nation to launch a mission to Mars.
Last year, religious leaders in the UAE issued a fatwa forbidding Muslims from landing on Mars. However, the robotic spaceship will not actually touch down on the Martian surface. It will blast off aboard a Japanese rocket and then go into orbit around the planet.
“We are delighted to launch the UAE’s Mars explorer by the Japanese launch vehicle H-IIA from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan in 2020,” said Yuichi Yamaura, vice president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
“We are confident that we will accomplish our responsibility, together with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.”
The UAE first created its space agency in 2014 with the express aim of becoming the first Arab nation to launch a Mars mission.
In the same year, the nation’s General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment issued a fatwa forbidding Muslims from journeying to the red planet because they would effectively be committing suicide.
“Such a one-way journey poses a real risk to life, and that can never be justified in Islam,” the religious organisation wrote.
“There is a possibility that an individual who travels to planet Mars may not be able to remain alive there, and is more vulnerable to death.”
The religious edict was issued in response to an announcement from Mars One, which wants to send astronauts on a one-way trip to Mars.
“The Muslim world has a rich tradition of exploration,” Mars One said in a long post on its website.
It then quoted a Qur’anic verse and added: “The verse from the Qur’an above encourages Muslims to go out and see the signs of God’s creation in the ‘heavens and the earth’.”
“The most influential example of this was the Moroccan Muslim traveller, Ibn Battuta, who from 1325 to 1355 travelled 117,000 kilometres, visiting the equivalent of 44 modern countries.”
By Jasper Hami, The Sun
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