The hugely ambitious 'Mars 2117' project was launched in Dubai yesterday by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
The oil-rich Arab state only set up its space agency three years ago.
But now it wants to colonise Mars within 100 years.
We expect future generations to reap the benefits
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
The Sheikh said: "The landing of people on other planets has been a longtime dream for humans.
"Our aim is that the UAE will spearhead international efforts to make this dream a reality.
"We expect future generations to reap the benefits, driven by its passion to learn to unveil a new knowledge."
The hugely ambitious Mars 2117 project was launched in Dubai
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The UAE's first mission to the planet, Mars Hope, is due to launch in 2020.
If successful, the robotic space probe will orbit 14,000 miles above the Red Planet to track its turbulent weather.
But the UAE's space scientists have warned it could fail.
The oil-rich UAE set up its space agency three years ago
A spokesman said: "The rocket must blast off from Earth during a brief 'launch window' in July 2020.
"This is because the Earth and Mars orbit the Sun at different rates, and are aligned at their closest point only once every two years.
"If any part of the mission is not ready in time or fails at the last minute, there may be no second chance."
The UAE's first mission to Mars is due to launch in 2020
Late last year, SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk outlined his plans to get humans to Mars by 2022.
He said: "I want to make Mars seem possible – like it's something we can achieve in our lifetimes."
The mogul estimated the current cost of sending someone to the Red Planet at around $10billion (£8bn) per person.
The Arab state faces competition from SpaceX’s Elon Musk
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Speaking at the International Astronautical Congress, Musk said there were "two fundamental paths" facing humanity.
He said: "One is that we stay on Earth forever and then there will be an inevitable extinction event.
"The alternative is to become a space-faring civilisation, and a multi-planetary species."