The Emirates' space program is aware it's entering towards the back of the race, and its modus operandi appears to emphasize the benefits of the journey over the final destination. It's all part of a plan to stimulate the nation's science industries and boost its STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) credentials.
"Our primary target is having education and outreach," says Sarah Amiri, UAE minister of state for advanced sciences and science lead at the Emirates Mars Mission. "It's about building people, it's not about building buildings... It's creating people that are creative enough to stimulate your economy and to stimulate the growth of your entire nation."
In other words, space is a means to an end.
Afshin Molavi is a senior fellow in foreign policy at John Hopkins University, and monitors trends shaping the Middle East. "We sometimes think that the only way a space program is successful is when you have men on the moon planting a flag, or in the case of Dubai maybe rockets that land on Mars," he says. "But (a) space program is successful because of what it does on Earth."
Whether the UAE's investment manifests itself in an off-world colony, a new generation of homegrown scientists, or the next Dustbuster, Emirati lives could be the better for it.