By Gavin Gibbon
One third of applications for the second edition of the UAE Astronaut Programme have come from local women
The head of the UAE Astronaut Programme at Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre is hoping to send the first Emirati woman into space.
Salem Humaid AlMarri revealed there have been over 3,000 applicants for the second edition of the programme, 33% of which had come from local females.
AlMarri told Arabian Business: “I really hope we have a woman because I think first of all the skillset of a woman in space is very different in some instances than the skillset of a man; their abilities and capabilities, the way they work together as a team, the way they work off each other. It’s very important to have a combination of engineers, scientists, doctors, PhDs, men and women.”
It is hoped the second edition of the programme will prepare and train Emirati astronauts of the future to follow in the footsteps of Hazza Al Mansoori, the first Emirati astronaut, who completed an eight-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) last year.
Al Mansoori also spoke of his desire to see females from the country take on the space mission and pointed to the example of American astronaut Christina Koch, who spent 11 months in orbit – the longest spaceflight by a woman.
“Emirati women inspire us every day. She is a pilot, an engineer, a doctor, mother, sister, wife and daughter. I believe that women can achieve anything they want by determination and persistence,” he said.
The current average age of applicants for the second edition is 28, the youngest being 17-years-old and oldest aged 60.
Some 31% of the applicants were engineers – 28% of which were female engineers - and 17% were pilots.
The programme has received the highest number of registrations from people working in Etihad Airways, the UAE Armed Forces, and Dubai Police. While the majority of the registrations have come from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.
“Our focus now today is on selecting the best and the brightest. If the best and the brightest happen to be two men or the best and the brightest happen to be two women, we’ll select based on that,” said AlMarri.
“We haven’t put per se a percentage on one is going to be a man, one is going to be a woman, we’re selecting on who is the best.”
Deadline for applications is March 31 although this could be extended until May. According to the programme timetable, the first wave of interviews will take place in August/September, with further interviews planned in November before the two successful candidates are selected in January next year.
UAE astronauts Al Mansoori and Sultan Al Neyadi, who were selected from the inaugural programme out of more than 4,000 applicants, will both be on the interview committee, which will be made up of 10 specialists.
Al Neyadi, who was part of the back-up crew for last year’s mission, said: “We will be part of the evaluation panel. I think it will be a good opportunity for candidates to listen to our experiences first hand in order for us to tell them all about it and answer any questions they have.”
To qualify for the UAE Astronaut Programme, applicants should be UAE nationals above 18 years of age with a bachelor's degree. All professions will be considered, from engineers to pilots, military personnel to teachers, those involved in STEM and other professions.