We are now ready for takeoff – the search for the UAE’s first astronauts is over. In a historic announcement on Monday, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has revealed the names of two astronauts from the United Arab Emirates who will be heading to the International Space Station (ISS), a habitable artificial satellite, orbiting the Earth. Sultan Saif Al Neyadi, a doctor of information technology, and military pilot, Hazza Al Mansouri, are set to go to Russia for advanced training before next year’s space mission, a first for the tiny Gulf country. Only one of the astronauts will lift off into space in April 2019, while the other will stay behind as a back-up.
The hunt for the nation’s first astronauts started in December 2017, when the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center’s (MBRSC) UAE Astronaut Programme was initially announced.
We announced today our first astronauts to the International Space Station: Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Nayadi. Hazza and Sultan represent all young Arabs and represent the pinnacle of the UAE's ambitions.
Congratulations to the people and youth of the Emirates pic.twitter.com/UNqRXdtsjS
— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) September 3, 2018
“Today, we have the only program in the region to launch a probe to Mars,” wrote His Highness in a statement on Twitter. “We have capabilities to manufacture satellites, we have Emirati astronauts, and we have invested AED 20 billion to the space sector. Most importantly, we have a nation for whom the sky is the limit. In conclusion, Arabs can achieve anything under the right circumstances.”
Echoing on his statement, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, wrote on the social media platform: “Congratulations to Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Saif Al Neyadi for their selection as the first Emirati astronauts. This new achievement reflects the strength of the UAE’s youth and their determination to reach the highest levels.”
The two were chosen from 4,022 applicants after a rigorous six-stage vetting procedure. Ahead of their interstellar travels, the two astronauts, who both hail from Abu Dhabi, had to complete stages of intense medical and psychological tests in addition to a series of personal interviews in cooperation with NASA and advanced medical tests by Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos.