When the UAE announced a call for Emirati people to join the UAE Astronaut Programme, thousands of applications flooded in from people who wanted to train and become an astronaut. Out of 4300 applications, 1,400 of them were from Emirati women.
HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai shared a post on Instagram in which he announced the news that a large number of Emirati females had applied amongst other details, captioning, “I received the statistics of applicants for the Emirates Astronaut Program… where we will announce two Emirati astronauts soon… 1,400 Emirati girls among the applicants out of 4,300 applicants… and 130 Emiratis with a PHD in the applicants… proud of desire… proud of passion. Proud of the people of this country.”
This news comes after a press conference was held in November 2019, a month after the first Emirati astronaut, Hazza Al Mansouri, had taken flight and visited the International Space Station, at which Salem Al Marri who is the head of the UAE Astronaut Programme, stated that the next Emirati astronaut should be a woman. “We will choose the most talented and suitable candidate regardless of gender,” Al Marri had said. “They will receive the same treatment as any other candidate and it’s a case of may the best person win.”
The first batch of Mohamed Bin Rashid Space Centre’s (MBRSC) UAE Astronaut Programme applicants saw Hazza Al Mansouri win the opportunity, and now, from the second batch of applicants, two will be selected to join AlMansouri and Sultan AlNeyadi on future crewed space flights. Hazza made history last year as the first Emirati to go to space, as he embarked on an 8-day mission at the end of September 2019 and returned on October 3rd.
In December 2019, a call was made for Emiratis who met a particular criteria to apply for the opportunity to become an astronaut, and closed on May 1st 2020. The UAE Astronaut Programme has a 2-year plan, which will be spent on training the selected Emirati applicants who will be key in contributing to their country’s scientific space exploration.
The Director-General of MBRSC, Yousuf Hamad Al Shaibani, said in a statement, “Supporting the UAE’s vision of a prosperous future based on knowledge and scientific research, the UAE Astronaut Programme aims to elevate the UAE among the ranks of the select few countries with an advanced space sector. The Programme also aims to achieve the strategic goals of the UAE’s space sector, including that of making a positive contribution towards creating a better tomorrow for humankind. The inspiring leadership of the UAE has always commended the efforts put in by the team at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre. Their unrivalled support and guidance have led us through this journey and fuelled our passion for achieving our goals in the space sector.”