The UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has said 39 of its 95 candidates for an astronaut programme have qualified to go through to the next phase.
The programme was announced last year th the goal of sending four Emiratis into space in the next three years.
The UAE has since signed a deal with Russia to send the first Emirati into space in April next year for a 10-day trip to the International Space Station (ISS).
UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum previously indicated candidates would be selected from a shortlist of 75 men and 20 women aged between 23 and 48.
The group of 39 passed physical and psychological tests to qualify for the preliminary list of the astronaut programme.
The tests included a clinical test and a range of activities to measure intelligence, aptitude, neurocognitive ability, personality, and working memory, according to UAE news agency WAM.
They were followed by one-to-one interviews to determine candidates’ personalities and ensure they can endure the “harsh and unusual conditions of space”.
“The UAE Astronaut Programme reflects the efforts of the MBRSC to support the national policy in the field of space, and contribute to strengthening the UAE’s position among leading countries in the Space sector,” said MBRSC director general Yousuf Al Shaibani.
We are proud of all the Emirati talents who registered for this ambitious programme, and we are happy with their persistence to reach highest levels.”
The 39 will undergo a final assessment stage supervised by MBRSC and experts from international space agencies, with final interviews beginning on July 3.
Based on this, the first astronaut will be selected for the Russian scientific mission to the ISS.
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 ($136.1m) simulation city on Earth to imitate a future project on the red planet it plans to build in 2117.