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Dubai: The UAE is one step closer to choosing its final team of astronauts.

The Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) on Wednesday announced that nine candidates have qualified for the final evaluation phase of the UAE Astronaut Programme. 

Out of 18 candidates, nine passed the one-to-one interviews in the MBRSC and are scheduled to undergo an intensive assessment in Russia by experts from Roscosmos.

Once the assessment is completed, the UAE will be choose the first Emirati astronaut corps out of four Emirati astronauts. The tests will be conducted by experts from Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, and will include intensive medical and physical tests to ensure that candidates are ready for special space-related training. 

4,022 applied for the UAE Astronaut Programme

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 candidate, who will represent the UAE in space and carry out national missions assigned to space exploration and scientific research to benefit humanity.”

The UAE National Space Programme was launched in 2017 by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE.

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18 made it to evaluations by MBRSC committee

It aims to train and prepare a team of Emiratis to be sent to space for various scientific missions. This supports the intensive preparations to send the first Emirati and Arab astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS) in April 2019.

The programme includes reaching Mars in 2021 and building first settlement on the Red Planet in 2117

“This supports the objectives of the UAE Astronauts Programme, as well as the directives of Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid to build national capabilities in space science and take this sector to strategic levels,” said Al Shaibani.