Ramping Up Its New Space Program, UAE Sending Astronauts to ISS for the First Time in 2019
With everything from groundbreaking discoveries in exoplanet science, to bold plans to grow plants on Mars in a modern utopia that makes Blade Runner look like the Stone Age, the United Arab Emirates is emerging as one of the most important players in the 21st-century space race.
As evidenced by the creation of the UAE Space Agency, not to mention a new initiative that offers $500,000 to the world's brightest minds in exchange for proposals related to "space settlements, terraforming and space ecology" and "business models and governance issues," the influential Middle Eastern country has thrown its full weight into modernizing itself in a way few others can claim.
Today, the UAE announced that in 2019 it will be sending astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time in the artificial satellite's 20-year history.
According to CNN, of the 18 countries and 232 astronauts that have visited the station, none of them have represented a Middle Eastern nation.
The UAE Space Agency is only a few years old (founded in 2014) but it has wasted very little time establishing itself as a serious player in the space game.
HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the historic agreement with Roscomos on Twitter, saying that the UAE's vision began 12 years ago and is finally beginning to take shape.
وقعت دولة الامارات اليوم اتفاقية تاريخية لإرسال أول رائد فضاء إماراتي خلال الأشهر القادمة لمحطة الفضاء الدولية .. ابن الامارات قادر على معانقة الفضاء .. ورؤيتنا التي بدأناها منذ ١٢ عاما لتطوير قطاع الفضاء الوطني بدأت تؤتي ثمارها— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) June 20, 2018
"The UAE is moving rapidly in space science and research due to the unlimited support of our wise leadership," said Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, Chairman of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre after the announcement of a 95-person shortlist for the UAE Astronaut Programme.
The candidates were selected from a pool of 4,022 applicants, and the shortlist includes 75 men and 20 women.
The list will soon be made even shorter, with four top candidates and two reserves still to be selected.
"We are delighted by the volume of entries from a highly qualified caliber of Emiratis," the Chairman added.
"This confirms the ambitions of the UAE nationals who are dedicated to follow the country's approach to explore space and support the vision of our wise leadership to prepare national cadres to enrich scientific progress and serve humanity through making further achievements in space exploration. This contributes to achieving the ambitious aspirations of reaching a national economy based on knowledge, innovation and creativity, in addition to enhancing the UAE's competitiveness and leadership as a global hub for space science."
We wish the nations of the world could find a way to speed up that timeline (maybe by working together?) so that we could be alive to see it all happen.