The UAE his signed a historic deal to send its first astronaut into space next year, according to the country’s vice president.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, said on Twitter the agreement to send an Emirati to the International Space Station was a sign the country’s space programme was bearing fruit.
“Our vision to develop the national space sector is being realised with the development of a spacecraft, the construction of our first local satellite manufacturing facility, the training being given to Emirati astronauts, and the launch of a comprehensive scientific and research programme,” he said.
“We will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the UAE in 2021, and we will gift these accomplishments to our future generations so that their dreams will always start from the sky.”
Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre said the agreement was reached with the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and would involve the selection and training of the first Emirati astronaut from next month.
Following this, the astronaut will depart on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station in April 2019 for a 10-day space trip.
In 2017, the UAE launched its first astronaut programme with the goal of sending four Emiratis into space in the next three years.
Sheikh Mohammed said candidates would be selected from a shortlist of 75 men and 20 women aged between 23 and 48.
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.