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Bahrain And Russia In Talks To Send Astronauts Into Orbit; Roscosmos Mulling Regional Office In Manama

NASA Astronaut Bruce McCandless II using a Manned Maneuvering Unit outside Space Shuttle Challenger on shuttle mission STS-41-B in 1984. Photograph courtesy of NASA.

According to several Bahraini and Russian media sources, the Bahraini and Russian governments are in discussions about possibly sending candidates from the small Persian Gulf island to Russia for astronaut training and launch into Earth orbit.

“The representatives of the Bahrain Space Science Agency attended a spacecraft launch at Baikonur this year, where they discussed with the Russian side the prospects for possible cooperation, specifically in training and sending the first Bahraini astronaut into orbit. But no specific agreements have been reached yet, no documents on the issue have been signed,” a Russian embassy spokesperson in Manama told Russian news outlet Sputnik.

“Russia is ready to send the first Bahraini astronaut to the International Space Station in a joint trip with Russian astronauts next year,” said Sergey Savilev, the vice-president of Roscosmos in a separate statement.

“This will follow an intensive training programme for a number of Bahraini candidates at the Russian Space Research Institute in Moscow, which will help them qualify for the trip,” Savilev added.

“Meanwhile we have also invited Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Kamal Ahmed and BNSSA executive chairman Dr Mohammed Ibrahim Al Aseeri to Moscow along with a number of Bahraini officials to attend the launch of the Russian rocket, which will carry a group of astronauts into space in October,” he said.

In July 2018, the NSSA announced the launch of its Space Team programme which seeks to recruit 10 people who would become Bahrain’s first group of space science and technology specialists. The group is set to undergo 24-month training, which will be held both on the kingdom’s territory and abroad. So far the Space Team programme has attracted over 1,500 Bahraini applicants.

News of the Bahraini-Russian astronaut talks come as the United Arab Emirates has reached agreement with Russia to train two Emiratis for a ten day sojourn to the International Space Station (ISS) in April 2019.

Roscosmos Mulling Regional Office In Bahrain

Relatedly, Bahrain’s ambassador to Russia revealed that the Russian national space agency, Roscosmos, is interested in opening a Middle East regional office in Bahrain.

“Roscosmos is also planning to open a regional office in Bahrain to promote their services in the Middle East,” said Ahmed Al Saati, Bahrain’s ambassador in Moscow.

“The services include applications for oil and water exploration, security, monitoring pollution, organising road traffic, aviation control etc.,” Al Saati added.

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