Three gen­er­a­tions of a fam­ily in race to be UAE’s first astro­naut

4,022 Emi­ratis have ap­plied to be coun­try’s first four space ex­plor­ers

Gulf News - - Front Page - BY JAN­ICE PONCE DE LEON Staff Re­porter

A67-year-old man and three gen­er­a­tions of a fam­ily are among over 4,000 Emi­ratis who have ap­plied to be the first four UAE as­tro­nauts, of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day.

The Mo­ham­mad Bin Rashid Space Cen­tre (MBRSC) an­nounced the fi­nal re­sults of the ap­pli­ca­tion process for the UAE Astro­naut Pro­gramme which ran from De­cem­ber 6 last year to March 31. A to­tal of 4,022 Emi­ratis ap­plied, 34 per cent of them women. The ap­pli­cants are from 38 work fields, and are aged be­tween 17 and 67. Yousuf Al Shaibani, MBRSC Direc­torGen­eral, said the cen­tre is de­lighted with the vol­ume of en­tries and are highly im­pressed with ap­pli­cants’ di­verse skill sets and back­grounds.

“The suc­cess of this pro­gramme is un­der­pinned by the tal­ent we hone and we are look­ing for­ward to train­ing a skilled team of in­di­vid­u­als to rep­re­sent our coun­try on board the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion (ISS) and con­trib­ute to the var­i­ous ex­per­i­ments and re­search ar­eas there,” Al Shaibani said. Salem Al Merri, astro­naut pro­gramme man­ager, said: “Of the fi­nal four that will be selected af­ter the train­ing, one will be sent to the ISS.”

More than 4,000 Emi­ratis, in­clud­ing a 67-year-old man and three gen­er­a­tions of a fam­ily, have ap­plied to be one of four UAE as­tro­nauts, of­fi­cials an­nounced yes­ter­day. Of the four can­di­dates cho­sen, only one will go on the UAE’s space mis­sion af­ter 2022.

The Mo­ham­mad Bin Rashid Space Cen­tre (MBRSC) re­vealed the fi­nal re­sults of the ap­pli­ca­tion process for the UAE Astro­naut Pro­gramme which ran from De­cem­ber 6, 2017 to March 31 this year. A to­tal of 4,022 Emi­ratis ap­plied, with 34 per cent be­ing women. The ap­pli­cants are from 38 fields of work, and their ages are be­tween 17 and 67.

Yousuf Al Shaibani, MBRSC direc­tor-gen­eral, said: “We are look­ing for­ward to train­ing a skilled team of in­di­vid­u­als to rep­re­sent our coun­try on board the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion [ISS] and con­trib­ute to the var­i­ous ex­per­i­ments and re­search ar­eas there.”

Salem Al Merri, MBRSC as­sis­tant direc­tor-gen­eral for Sci­en­tific and Tech­ni­cal Af­fairs and pro­gramme man­ager of UAE Astro­naut Pro­gramme, said: “Un­for­tu­nately, 99.9 per cent of the ap­pli­cants will not be suc­cess­ful. The di­ver­sity [of the ap­pli­ca­tions re­ceived] show­cases that our so­ci­ety is on board with this mis­sion. They’re ex­cited about this mis­sion. Young and old want to be a part of it.”

Amel Ab­dul­lah Ameen, head of ed­u­ca­tion at MBRSC and se­lec­tion lead for the pro­gramme, ex­plained that the ISS only ac­com­mo­dates six as­tro­nauts at a time. The re­main­ing three UAE as­tro­nauts will, there­fore, be sent to space on a ro­ta­tion ba­sis.

Al Merri said one of the most in­spir­ing things he saw dur­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion process was when three gen­er­a­tions from one fam­ily showed in­ter­est.

“There were peo­ple who came to us who are in their 50s and 60s who said the pro­gramme was some­thing they were dream­ing about in the 70s when they saw peo­ple landing on the sur­face of the moon. They thought ‘Will the UAE be able to do this?’ And they thought, ‘Is it too late for us?’” Al Merri said.

“Some of them ap­plied and they also en­cour­aged their chil­dren and their grand­chil­dren to ap­ply.”

Ameen said can­di­dates have to be emo­tion­ally sta­ble, healthy and think an­a­lyt­i­cal ly.

The cen­tre also opened up pro­pos­als for the sci­en­tific fo­cus of the mis­sion and has re­ceived 15 pro­pos­als, which it is cur­rently re­view­ing.

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