The UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has announced that the final 18 candidates have been chosen for its UAE Astronaut Programme.
The candidates were shortlisted from the 39 who previously passed the initial interviewing process.
The process of narrowing the candidates included extensive tests to measure intelligence, neurocognitive ability, personality and aptitude, among others, official news agency WAM reported.
Following these tests, one-to-one interviews were also conducted where the candidates’ personalities were evaluated in various mental and psychological aspects to ensure that they are able to endure the harsh and unusual conditions in space.
The 18 candidates will undergo the final assessment stage which will be conducted by a committee of experts from the MBRSC along with international experts from international space agencies.
The UAE astronaut programme was announced last year with the goal of sending four Emiratis into space in the next three years.
Two astronauts from the Emirati corps will be trained in Russia – including one primary and one backup. One of them will be joining a crew of Russian commander and an American astronaut in Soyuz MS-12 spaceflight which is planned to launch to International Space Station (ISS) in April 2019.
The others will receive extensive training for future long duration space missions.
Yousuf Al Shaibani, director general of the MBRSC, said: “The UAE Astronaut Programme strives to support the national policy in the field of space, and support the vision of our leadership to build a national team of Emiratis who will be fully trained.
“This will enable the UAE to become a hub for the region’s space sector.”
The astronaut initiative marks the latest in a series of space projects announced by the country as it prepares to send a probe to Mars by 2020.
In September the UAE revealed plans to build a Dhs500m simulation city on Earth to imitate a future project on the red planet it plans to build in 2117.
Late last month, Dubai also announced that it is looking to transform its southern airport into a hub for supersonic, hypersonic and space travel.