First UAE Astronaut to Fly to ISS Next Year

The Soyuz MS-08 rocket is launched with Expedition 55 Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos and flight engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel of NASA, Wednesday, March 21, 2018 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Artemyev, Arnold, and Feustel will spend the next five months living and working aboard the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

DUBAI (Dubai Media Office PR) — Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said that sending the first Emirati astronaut to space will herald the beginning of a new era for the UAE and represents another step towards achieving the country’s vision and aspirations for the space sector.

His Highness’s comment came as the UAE, represented by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), and The Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, signed a cooperation agreement to send the first Emirati astronaut to space to participate in scientific research as part of the Russian space mission to the International Space Station aboard the Soyuz-MS spacecraft.

“The UAE has signed a historic agreement to send the first Emirati astronaut to the International Space Station. The journey that we began 12 years ago is beginning to bear fruit,” Sheikh Mohammed said. “Our vision to develop the national space sector is being realised with the development of a spacecraft, the construction of our first local satellite manufacturing facility, the training being given to Emirati astronauts, and the launch of a comprehensive scientific and research programme. We will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the UAE in 2021, and we will gift these accomplishments to our future generations so that their dreams will always start from the sky,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

His Highness also said that the agreement supports the objectives of the ‘UAE Centennial 2071’ which focuses on the development of futuristic sciences across various sectors including innovation, space, engineering and medicine. He also said that the agreement provides an impetus for advancing the UAE’s future space ambitions which include building the first inhabitable human settlement in Mars as part of the 2117 Mars project.

Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of the MBRSC and general supervisor of all of the Centre’s projects and strategic and development plans HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said that the agreement is part of the strategic objective of the MBRSC to advance the UAE’s position as a leading country in the space industry, and its efforts to collaborate with major institutions to exchange knowledge and best practices in this field.

His Highness said that the first Emirati astronaut will travel to space within a year of the UAE Astronaut Programme creating a final shortlist of candidates as part of the National Space Programme. Four candidates will be selected from the 95 shortlisted applicants (of which 75 are males and 20 females) aged between 23-48 years, as part of the UAE Space Programme announced in April 2017.

The agreement was signed on the sidelines of UNISPACE +50, a symposium and special high-level meeting of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), being held in Vienna from 18 to 22 June. Director General of MBRSC His Excellency Yousuf Hamad Al Shaibani and Sergey Krikalev, Executive Director of Manned Spaceflight Programmes at Roscosmos signed the agreement on behalf of their respective organisations. The ceremony was attended by Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills and Chairman of the UAE Space Agency Dr. Ahmed Belhoul Al Falasi; Chairman of the Board of Directors of MBRSC HE Hamad Obaid Al Mansouri; General Director of Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities Dmitry Rogozin; and the senior management team of the MBRSC and UAE Space Agency.

Chairman of the Board of Directors of MBRSC HE Hamad Obaid Al Mansouri said that the agreement with the Russian Space Agency is part of a strategy to prepare the younger generation for facing future challenges brought by technological development. “Selecting and training Emirati astronauts is crucial to the success of the UAE Space Programme. The selected astronauts will participate in scientific research programmes that will serve humanity and help develop the UAE space sector in the future,” Al Mansouri said.

Director General of MBRSC His Excellency Yousuf Hamad Al Shaibani said that the Russian Space Agency is an ideal partner because of its long track record in the space sector.

The International Space Station (ISS) is a multi-nation construction project that is the largest single structure humans have ever put into space. Its main construction was completed between 1998 and 2011, although the station continues to evolve to include new missions and experiments. It has been continuously occupied since 2 November 2000. As of January 2018, 230 individuals from 18 countries have visited the International Space Station.