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Dubai: The race to become the next Emirati in space is on after His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, tweeted on Friday that registration is now open to join Hazzaa AlMansoori in the history books.

“We are looking for a new Emirati astronaut for the second Emirati mission in space,” tweeted Sheikh Mohammed. “We call on every Emirati who thinks he/she has the ambition, energy and determination to register at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center.

“Our journey into space is ongoing and still in the beginnings,” Sheikh Mohammed, added.

This announcement comes less than two months since Hazzaa AlMansoori became the first Emirati in space after completing a successful eight-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS) from September 25 to October 3.

Not only was Hazzaa the first Emirati in space, but he was also the first Arab on the ISS, and the third Arab in space after Saudi Arabia’s Sultan Bin Salman Bin Abdul Aziz (1985), and Syria’s Mohammad Faris (1987).

Hazzaa, 34, was selected from 4,022 applicants in a similar recruitment drive first tweeted by Shaikh Mohammad back in 2017.

Back then Sheikh Mohammed said, “On this day, a new chapter in our history begins with the launch of the first UAE Astronaut Programme, dedicated to training and sending four Emirati Astronauts into space. The people of the UAE will break barriers, there is no power strong enough to stand in the way of those who believe nothing is impossible.

“Our ambitious goals are fueled by dedicated people, who support us until, without hesitation or scepticism, we succeed.

“I invite young Emiratis to register for the UAE Astronaut Programme through the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. The most competitive applicants will be selected to be ambassadors for the UAE in space exploration. However, every single Emirati will contribute in his or her own way to the future of the UAE, whether it’s on land, or in the skies,” Sheikh Mohammed added.

Back up astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi would be the obvious choice for the UAE’s second mission to space but this latest tweet shows the opportunity is also back open for other would be astronauts to enter orbit.

Recent comments from Salem Al Marri, assistant director general of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre and head of the UAE Astronaut Programme, suggest that second Emirati astronaut could just as easily be a woman.

“We will choose the most talented and suitable candidate regardless of gender,” he said during a recent press conference in Dubai.

“They will receive the same treatment as any other candidate and it’s a case of may the best person win.”

Next year, the UAE plans to send an unmanned exploratory ‘Hope Probe’ to Mars to mark the nation’s 50th anniversary and it hopes to set up the first inhabitable human settlement on Mars by 2117.