By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Salem Humaid AlMarri, the head of the UAE Astronaut Programme, said that the coronavirus pandemic may add only a month or two, depending on how long it lasts
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is unlikely to have any significant impact on the second edition of the UAE’s astronaut programme, according to Salem Humaid AlMarri, the head of the UAE Astronaut Programme at Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre.
The second edition of the programme is designed to prepare and train Emirati astronauts to follow in the footsteps of Hazza Al Mansoori – the UAE’s first astronaut – who completed an eight-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2019.
The deadline for applications to the programme is March 31, although officials have said that it could be pushed back until May.
As it stands, the timetable calls for the first wave of interviews to take place in August and September, with further interviews planned in November before two successful candidates are named in January 2021.
In an interview with Arabian Business, AlMarri said that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is unlikely to have any bearing on the timeline for the astronaut programme.
“When you look at these kinds of long-term space programmes, in which training is conducted over a series of years and then preparation takes place over a series of years, these situations don’t effect directly,” he said.
“It could add a month, or two months,” AlMarri added. “It depends on how long this goes on. If this keeps going on for the next year, then it’ll have an effect. But if it’s for the next couple of months, it will really not have any effect at all.”
There have been over 3,000 applicants for the second edition of the UAE astronaut programme, 33 percent of which have been Emirati women.