UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


Emirates Mars Mission: a mission to a transformative future

Evaluating the Emirates Mission to Mars to develop a new approach for measuring the transformative impacts of deep space exploration missions.

About the report

In July 2020 the United Arab Emirates will launch a satellite to Mars to study its atmosphere and climate. The mission is notable for more than the science it supports. Its true distinctiveness is more easily appreciated when the motivations that propel it are considered.

The Mission's conception arose from a quest to fundamentally redirect the UAE's trajectory as a nation. Through its design and execution, the EMM pursues a UAE future in which its economy diversifies from traditional activity, including oil and finance, and inspires a generation towards scientific and entrepreneurial careers – and away from other, less societally beneficial pathways. For the UAE, which finds itself at a crossroads, the EMM offers a pathway to the country playing an increasingly influential role within the wider global knowledge economy. 

This study followed from an agreement that an independent review could elucidate a set of shared interest questions:

  • Can a single science mission catalyse a national transformation?  
  • What lessons can be learnt from the UAE’s approach to mission delivery?
  • What is the impact so far?
  • And what evidence, if any, is there of transformative value generated? 

Usually when questions are asked to capture the value of outer space activity, only a portion of the picture is considered. Typical mission value measurement tools support only partial capture of the story. The report draws on lessons and experiences of others to develop a new method to capture the impact of science missions: the Transformative Value Canvas.

The Transformative Value Canvas is a tool for comprehensive value analysis and can be used as a checklist for thinking through the full spectrum and diversity of impacts that space missions have. It is hoped that the Canvas can help prompt ideas about how the value of space missions can be further enhanced.

The content of the report is drawn from multiple sources and uses a combination of corresponding data collection and analysis techniques. These include a review of international academic and grey literature on the value of space missions; interviews with international experts; and meetings and workshops with the staff of the MBRSC. The research team also benefited from parallel engagement with the UAE Office of Advanced Sciences. The team has also drawn on findings from previous research.