|07 December, 2019

Aspiring astronauts go all out to be UAE's next space hero

AlMansoori's eight-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has inspired many

Nearly 1,000 requests poured in from aspiring astronauts within just four hours of the announcement that applications for UAE's second mission to space have been opened.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, had announced the search for the country's next Emirati astronaut on his social media channels on Friday, saying the nation's journey towards space is still in its nascent stage.

Salem Al Marri, the head of the UAE Astronauts Programme at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC), said in a tweet: "We received nearly 1,000 requests within just four hours of the announcement and the number is still growing. Eyes were awake for the dream and the ambition for a country's need. Once again we witness the determination of the Emirati sons and daughters to apply for the second batch of the UAE Astronauts Programme,"

MBRSC is trying to grow its astronaut corps. Currently, there are two Emirati astronauts, Hazzaa and Sultan Al Neyadi, who were selected from 4,022 candidates that had applied in the first round in 2018. Both of them underwent one-year-long vigorous training in Russia, Europe and the US.

AlMansoori's eight-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has inspired many. In addition to being the first Emirati in space, the former military fighter jet pilot was the first Arab on the ISS.

Ahmed Al Ali, a Boeing 777 captain with over 8,000 hours of flight-time experience, will be reapplying to the UAE Astronaut Programme this year.

"We all are inspired by Hazzaa and loved how excited everyone, especially His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, was when he said the next plan is Mars," Al Ali told Khaleej Times. "I have learned a lot from last time (the first astronaut application round), so I definitely would love to serve my country."

Al Ali wants to go to space to "save humanity", saying that the human race is "headed towards extinction" if we remain a single-planet species.

Reem Al Suwaidi, an electrical engineer, is also an aspiring astronaut and will be signing up for the programme. "We all saw how proud Hazzaa AlMansoori made our country. I would also like to apply because I want to serve my country and it's always been a dream of mine to reach space and also take the UAE flag to great heights," she said. "I am very happy that we, Emiratis, now have a platform that we can use to pursue our astronaut dreams."

The application round is now open and the selection process can be lengthy, depending on how many applications are received and how many rounds there are.

For the UAE's first mission to space, there were several phases in the selection process - all the way from initial interviews and psychological tests, health exams, more interviews and extensive psychological tests.

Who can apply?

>All Emirati professionals will be considered - from engineers to pilots, military personnel to teachers, those involved in STEM and other professions.

>Applicants should be aged above 18 years and have at least a bachelor's degree

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