Soaring Beyond the Skies: A Deep Dive into the UAE’s Astronaut Program

The UAE astronaut corps: Sultan AlNeyadi, Hazzaa AlMansoori, Nora AlMatrooshi, Mohammad Almulla.
Source: Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre

United Arab Emirates’ Astronaut Program

The United Arab Emirates’ Astronaut Program, established in 2017, is an essential component of the nation’s ambitious space initiatives. Administered by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), the program aims to train and prepare Emirati astronauts for future space missions and contribute to international space exploration efforts. The UAE’s commitment to developing its human spaceflight capabilities has not only placed the country on the global space map but also inspired a new generation of Emirati scientists and engineers.

Astronaut Selection and Training

The UAE’s astronaut selection process is rigorous, attracting thousands of applicants from various fields, including pilots, engineers, and scientists. Candidates undergo a series of physical, mental, and psychological evaluations to ensure that they possess the necessary skills and aptitude for space missions. The selected astronauts then embark on an intensive training program, which includes:

  1. Basic astronaut training: This stage focuses on developing foundational knowledge in areas such as space science, engineering, and orbital mechanics. Astronauts are also introduced to spacecraft systems and learn essential survival skills.
  2. International Space Station (ISS) training: As part of their preparation for future ISS missions, astronauts receive specialized training in ISS systems, operations, and scientific research. This training is often conducted in collaboration with international partners such as NASA, Roscosmos, and the European Space Agency (ESA).
  3. Extravehicular activity (EVA) and robotics training: Emirati astronauts are trained in performing spacewalks (EVAs) and operating robotic systems, such as the Canadarm2 robotic arm on the ISS.
  4. Simulated mission training: This stage involves participating in simulated space missions to help astronauts gain experience in managing emergencies, conducting scientific experiments, and performing routine tasks in a microgravity environment.

Milestones and Achievements

First 2 UAE Astronauts Announced

In September 2018, the UAE announced the selection of the first two astronauts who will travel to space, Hazzaa AlMansoori and Sultan AlNeyadi.

Hazzaa AlMansoori

In September 2019, Hazzaa AlMansoori became the first Emirati astronaut to visit space and the ISS. During his eight-day mission, AlMansoori conducted scientific experiments, participated in educational outreach activities, and represented the UAE on the international stage. His historic journey marked a significant milestone for the nation and its astronaut program.

Second Batch of Astronauts

In 2021, the UAE announced the selection of two new astronauts, Mohammad AlMulla and Nora AlMatrooshi, who will join AlMansoori and AlNeyadi in the astronaut corps. Nora AlMatrooshi is the first Arab woman astronaut, breaking barriers and inspiring young Emirati women to pursue careers in science and engineering.

Sultan AlNeyadi

In 2023, Sultan AlNeyadi became the second Emirati astronaut to visit space and the ISS.

Axiom Flight 2023

In 2022, the UAE announced the signing of an agreement between Axiom Space and MBSC to fly a UAE professional crew member to the ISS on NASA’s Space Crew 6, expected to occur in 2023.

This will be the first non-ISS partner professional astronaut flight facilitated by a U.S. commercial space company. The mission is expected to last approximately six months, marking the first long-duration flight of an astronaut from an Arab nation. In yet another first, the UAE crew member will serve as a member of two Expedition crews onboard the space station across the roughly six-month interval.

Future Plans and Impact

The UAE’s Astronaut Program is committed to training more Emirati astronauts and participating in future space missions, including those to the Moon and Mars. The program also emphasizes the importance of international cooperation and knowledge exchange, seeking to collaborate with global space agencies and partners.

The impact of the UAE’s Astronaut Program extends far beyond the accomplishments of its astronauts. By investing in human spaceflight capabilities, the UAE is:

  • Inspiring a new generation of Emirati scientists, engineers, and explorers, promoting STEM education and fostering a knowledge-based economy.
  • Diversifying its economy and creating opportunities in space research, technology development, and innovation.
  • Strengthening international collaboration and partnerships in space exploration, fostering a global community dedicated to shared progress and discovery.
  • Enhancing the UAE’s global standing and showcasing the nation’s commitment to scientific and technological advancement.
  • Engaging with the public through educational initiatives, outreach programs, and public appearances by astronauts. These efforts aim to spark curiosity and interest in space among young Emiratis and foster a culture of exploration, innovation, and ambition.
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