First Published: 2017-12-06

UAE launches first space programme to train astronauts
Aspiring Emirati astronauts who apply will go through rigorous vetting procedure, with finalists given months of specialised training.
Middle East Online

Only a handful of states in the Middle East have sent a person into space.

DUBAI - Dubai's ruler on Wednesday launched the United Arab Emirates' first space programme aimed at sending four Emirati astronauts to the International Space Station within five years.

"On this day, a new chapter in our history begins with the launch of the first UAE Astronaut Programme," within the next five years, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al-Maktoum, the UAE's vice president and prime minister, said in a statement.

"The people of the UAE will break barriers," he said.

The oil-rich Gulf nation has already announced ambitious plans to become the first Arab country to send an unmanned probe to orbit Mars by 2021, naming it "Hope".

The astronaut programme would make it one of only a handful of states in the Middle East to have sent a person into space as it looks to make good on a pledge "to become global leader in space exploration over the next 50 years".

The first Arab in outer space was Saudi Arabia's Sultan bin Salman Al-Saud, who flew on a US shuttle mission in 1985. Two years later, Syrian air force pilot Muhammed Faris spent a week aboard the ex-Soviet Union's Mir space station.

Aspiring Emirati astronauts who apply for the programme will go through a rigorous vetting procedure, with finalists given months of specialised training before the last four are selected.

In the long-term, the UAE says it is planning to build a "Science City" to replicate life on Mars and aims to create the first human settlement on the red planet by 2117.

 

Israel PM faces renewed pressure in Europe

Bahraini civil society group criticised after Israel visit

Egypt revives controversial desert capital project

Syria’s justice system: ‘working without a written law'

Saudi Arabia lifts decades-long ban on cinemas

Houthi rebels tighten grip on Sanaa after Saleh’s assassination

Israel’s Syrian air strikes risk renewing escalation as Iran expands presence in Golan

Qatar to acquire 24 Typhoon fighters from UK

Palestinian stabs Israeli guard in ‘terrorist’ attack

UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed says US Jerusalem decision could help terrorists

Fateh encourages more protests, refuses to meet Pence

Chinese electric carmaker to open Morocco factory

Iraqi victory over IS remains fragile

Morocco’s renewed ties with South Africa likely to consolidate support for Western Sahara stance

Lebanese security forces fire tear gas at protestors

Iran sentences fugitive ex-bank chief to jail

Iraq announces 'end of the war against Daesh'

Israeli air strike kills 2 in Gaza

UK foreign minister in Iran to push for Briton's release

Turkey's Erdogan seeks to lead Muslim response on Jerusalem

Iraqi Christians celebrate in town retaken from IS

Isolated US defiant at UN Security Council

Putin to visit Turkey for talks on Jerusalem, Syria

Protests sweep Muslim world over Jerusalem

US urges Saudi to show caution in regional disputes

Thousands march in Istanbul to protest US Jerusalem move

Bahrain Shiite leader undergoes surgery

Malaysians, Indonesians protest US move on Jerusalem

EU, Jordan voice backing for Palestinian state

Clashes in West Bank over US Jerusalem move

Macron appeals for calm over US Jerusalem embassy move

World leaders to 're-legitimise' Lebanon PM at Paris talks

Iraq forces launch new push against IS desert holdouts

Iran cleric urges new intifada against 'occupying regime'

Heavy Israeli deployment ahead of Friday prayers

Saudi crown prince ‘bought’ $450 mn Da Vinci

Trump Jerusalem ploy sparks Palestinian protests

States pledge action, condemn Libya slavery

UN says Syrian males caught in ‘vicious cycle’ of sex abuse

Jerusalem move awkward for Arab allies of US

Niger repatriates nationals from Libya

Russia says mission to defeat IS in Syria ‘accomplished’

Jerusalem recognition brings little change and big risks

Qatar agrees to buy fighter jets from France amid Gulf crisis

Iraqi militia threatens US forces over Jerusalem provocation