The UAE’s efforts to launch its own astronauts into space crossed one more milestone last week as nine trainees reached Russia for a three-week medical examination period at the Gagarin Research & Test Cosmonaut Training Centre and Institute of Biomedical Problems. This is a critical stage that will subject the candidates to a battery of physiological and other tests that are at the core of assessment to determine which of the nine candidates will eventually comprise the team of four astronauts for the UAE.

For the UAE, and for the candidates, this is a proud moment that signals yet another triumph in the nation’s preparations to journey to space, that began in December 2017. The tests, which also include being subjected to heavy g-forces [gravitational forces], simulating space walks underwater and other demanding tasks, apart from intensive medical examinations, will help the UAE name the first Emirati Astronauts Corps who will receive training to perform different space missions in the next few years. Two of the four Emirati astronauts will be selected, after which an astronaut and his backup will start training this month for a flight to the International Space Station in April 2019.

This goal is being reached with remarkable efficiency by the UAE, given how young the country is. The speed and clarity with which our country is setting the pace for its entry into the international fraternity of space-exploring nations is indeed worthy of emulation.

In tandem with the unbounded enthusiasm and participation of its citizens, the UAE is creating a nationally significant space industry that will soon take a leading place in the world.