The UAE on Monday named the two Emiratis who will be the first to go into space to the International Space Station following an extensive search for astronauts.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Prime Minister, Vice President and Dubai Ruler, tweeted that he is proud to announce the success of Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Nayadi.
He said he hoped the duo would "raise the bar for an entire generation", adding: "We have the only Mars probe program in the region; our satellite industry has realised its full potential; we have UAE astronauts; we have a space industry worth AED20bn & we have aspirations without limits... When given the opportunity, Arabs can reach for the stars."
Thirty-four-year-old Hazaa Ali Abdan Khalfan Al Mansouri has a Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation Science and Military Aviation from the Khalifa bin Zayed Air College, has 14 years of military aviation experience, and has completed training programmes both inside and outside the country. In 2016, Al Mansouri qualified to be an aeronautical pilot and now pilots an F-16B60 aircraft.
Thirty-seven-year-old Sultan Saif Muftah Hamad Al Niyadi has a PhD in Data Leakage Prevention Technology from Griffith University in Australia that he had obtained in 2016, as well as a Master’s degree in Information and Networks Security from the same university, a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Brighton University in the United Kingdom, UK, and completed a general education programme in IT in the UK in 2001.
The final two were chosen after a shortlist of nine candidates competing to become the UAE’s first astronauts underwent tests recently in Moscow.
The tests were conducted over the course of three weeks at the Gagarin Research and Test Cosmonaut Training Centre and at the Institute of Biomedical Problems at Russia’s State Scientific Centre.
The two astronauts from the Emirati corps will be trained in Russia, one primary and one backup. One of them will be joining a crew of Russian commander and an American astronaut in Soyuz MS-12 spaceflight which is planned to launch to ISS in April 2019.
The other will receive extensive training for future long duration space missions.
Hamad Obaid Al Mansouri, chairman of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, also tweeted: "This announcement is the beginning of a new phase and a milestone for our beloved nation and the young people of the nation who aspire for a brighter future; it is a privilege and pride to succeed in the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in delivering the ambition and aspirations of the UAE youth Into space."
Yousef Al Shaibani, director general of Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, added: "We have always had faith and certainty in the abilities and competencies of the sons and daughters of the nation, and in light of it we launched the most important and challenging in the history of our beloved nation, which has surpassed the achievements and successes on the ground to look for challenges and stakes in space."
The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre launched the Emirates Astronauts Programme in December 2017 and created an e-registration portal for those who aim to be the first Emirati astronaut.
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