When the UAE sets its mind to something, it clearly works on accomplishing it. Back in February, chief operating officer and futurist-in-chief at the Dubai Future Foundation Noah Ford had said, “We are looking to attract the best from every discipline.” Now, 5 months later, the UAE has its shortlist of astronaut candidates who will help them get to space.
One small step for an Emirati, one giant leap for the UAE
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre has announced that 95 out of the 4,022 potential applicants have been shortlisted for the UAE Astronaut Programme. 75 males and 20 females between the ages of 23 to 48 have made the cut. The shortlist boasts members from a wide array of educational and vocational backgrounds, including medicine, civil aviation, the air force, STEM and education.
The UAE Astronaut Programme is a branch of the broader UAE National Space Programme, and this particular directive aims to train and prepare a team of Emiratis to be sent to space for various scientific missions.
The programme was announced 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 and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, in April 2017.
Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, chairman of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, said, “we are delighted by the volume of entries from a highly qualified caliber of Emiratis. This confirms the ambitions of the UAE nationals who are dedicated to follow the country’s approach to explore space and support the vision of our wise leadership to prepare national cadres to enrich scientific progress and serve humanity through making further achievements in space exploration.”
He also added that “the qualified candidates represent the future of the UAE and reflect its generations’ aspirations to shape a future that tells the story of the country’s glorious legacy. In this race to space, they reaffirm our leadership’s plans for the youth since the formation of the union by our great leaders and until this day.”
When will we have our astronauts?
By the end of the year, the top four candidates will be selected with two reservists.
The finalists will undergo an intensive training programme, consisting of several stages according to the highest international standards.
“Candidates will also have to learn Russian and train in space science and research. They will then move on to advanced and intensive training, during which participants will learn about the maintenance and management of loads, as well as a range of skills including robotics, navigation, medical aid and resource management,” the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.
Upon completion of this stage, the astronaut will be eligible to participate in missions to the International Space Station (ISS).
The UAE Astronaut Programme is funded by the ICT fund of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).
A total of 217 space sector start-ups and entrepreneurs received funding exceeding $2.5 billion throughout 2017, with 14 having been founded in the Middle East, a statement at the final day of the Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi revealed.