UAE to Form Astronaut Corps

The UAE has announced it is forming its own astronaut corps in time for the 50th anniversary of the nation’s founding in 2021.

In a panel discussion at the 68th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) here Sept. 28, officials with the country’s new space agency said that the country sought to develop a “sustainable” human spaceflight program with scientific applications, rather than simply the prestige of flying humans in space.

“This is an initiative from the UAE government to have a sustainable human spaceflight program,” said Salem Humaid Al Marri, assistant director general at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre. “When we talk about sustainable, that means that we are not looking at launching an astronaut for a week or launching a tourist flight, but we’re looking at a program that is based on science.”

Al Marri said later that the government will formally request applications from astronauts by the end of this year or the first quarter of 2018. He didn’t disclose what criteria the space agency had developed for its astronaut program.

That will be followed by a selection process that he estimated will last from six to ten months before choosing between four and six astronauts. “Probably towards the lower end,” he said of that range of four to six, “because obviously all of the astronauts that we train we would also look to fly them at some point.”

Officials have not announced with vehicles UAE astronauts would fly on.

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