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Emirati lift-off: Nine qualify for final UAE astronaut-program shortlist

Space race for the Emirati astronaut corps continues as candidates will now undergo an intensive assessment in Russia by experts from Roscosmos.

As the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) announced on Wednesday, nine candidates have qualified for the final evaluation phase of the UAE Astronaut Programme.

Launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the programme aims to train and prepare a team of Emiratis to be sent to space for various scientific missions.

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One small step for Emiratis

It seems the UAE is almost at the final frontier as the programme has provided a sturdy backing to the intensive preparations taking place to send the first Emirati and Arab astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS) in April 2019.

Of the 18 candidates to participate in the one-to-one interviews in the MBRSC, only nine were able to pass, and they will now be undergoing an intensive assessment in Russia by the Roscosmos experts.

The fantastic 4

Following the assessment, based on each candidate’s comprehensive evaluation, the UAE will narrow the nine down to a final four, who shall receive the honor of joining the first-ever Emirati astronaut corps.

The Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre will be conducting the tests, which will include intensive medical and physical tests for each candidate to ensure their readiness for special space-related training. Depending on the candidate, this may extend up to 14 days.

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Yousuf Al Shaibani, director general of the MBRSC, commented: “The last phase of the evaluation process for the nine candidates will be a major step for us to choose the best candidate who will represent the UAE in space and carry out national missions assigned to space exploration and scientific research to benefit humanity.

“The first task will be to prepare a final comprehensive evaluation of each candidate, to select the first Emirati astronaut corps in accordance with the highest international standards, in addition to the Agency’s task of training two astronauts, for one of them to join the flight to the International Space Station in April,” he added.

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The UAE and Russia relationship is going strong

The UAE and Russia recently signed an agreement together to send the first Emirati astronaut to participate in scientific research as part of a Russian space mission to the ISS, aboard a Soyuz-MS spacecraft.

Of the Emirati astronaut corps, two will be trained in Russia: one primary and one backup. While one of these astronauts will be joining a crew comprising of a Russian commander and an American astronaut in the Soyuz MS-12 spaceflight, which is planned to launch to ISS in April 2019, the remainder shall receive extensive training for future long-duration space missions.