The UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has announced that the nine candidates have qualified for the final evaluation phase of the UAE Astronaut Programme.
The candidates were shortlisted from the 18 who passed the previous phase.
Read more: UAE astronaut programme: Final 18 chosen
The nine candidates passed one-to-one interviews by the MBRSC and will now undergo an intensive assessment in Russia by experts from Roscosmos, a statement said.
Following that the UAE will choose four Emirati astronauts based on the comprehensive evaluation of each candidate.
Experts from the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center will conduct intensive medical and physical tests of the candidates to ensure that they are ready for special space-related training.
This may extend up to 14 days for each candidate, the statement added.
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 last phase of the evaluation process for the nine candidates will be a major step for us to choose the best candidates who will represent the UAE in space and carry out space exploration missions and scientific research to benefit humanity.”
The move will help take the country’s space sector to “strategic levels”, he added.
The UAE Astronaut Programme is funded by the ICT fund of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.
Launched in 2007, the fund aims to support research and development within the ICT sector in the UAE.