The UAE’s ambitions in human spaceflight have taken a significant step forward with the announcement that more than 4,000 Emirati volunteers have stepped forward to enter the astronaut selection process.
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai on 17 April 2018 announced that they have received over 4,000 applications from Emiratis across the UAE aspiring to become part of the UAE Astronaut Programme. The programme, funded by the ICT Fund of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), was launched in December 2017, and the three-month application period closed on 31 March 2018.
A total of 4,022 applications were submitted from 38 different work fields from applicants ranging in age from 17 to 67. Additionally, 34 percent of the applicants are women. The programme aims to find four astronauts who will be carrying out scientific experiments on the International Space Station (ISS).
The selection process will begin soon, as applicants undergo a series of psychometric and medical exams. Once this initial process narrows the applicant pool to 200, candidates will undergo more intensive exams, as well as a panel interview. The four Emirati astronauts will be selected by the end of 2018.
Once chosen, this UAE Astronaut Team will go through a series of training programmes, which are divided into year-long basic training modules, followed by three years of advanced training modules. They will also travel to various Astronaut Training Centres around the world, where they will have access to state-of-the-art simulation systems for further space training.
The scientific mission of the UAE Astronaut Programme is to contribute to humanity’s knowledge and to support national and international future space missions. Its potential scientific focus areas are aligned with the UAE’s Mars 2117 project.
“Today, we are very proud of the sons and daughters of the country who have taken the initiative to join in this ambitious programme. We are delighted by the volume of entries and highly impressed by the diversity in skill set and backgrounds displayed by the applicants,” said Yousuf Al Shaibani, Director General of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre. “Success of this programme is underpinned by the talent we hone, and we are looking forward to training a skilled team of individuals to represent our country on board the ISS and contribute to the various experiments and research areas there.”
Salem Al Marri, Assistant Director General for Scientific and Technical Affairs at MBRSC and Head of the Higher Committee of the UAE Astronaut Programme, also commented, “The UAE Astronaut Programme is a unique programme carefully crafted to establish the UAE as one of the frontrunners in the global race for space. Through this programme, we are hoping to inspire a new generation of Emirati nations through space exploration and innovation and enable them to contribute to the future of our great country.”