3,000 Emiratis want to reach for the stars

There have been 3,000 people apply to become the first Emirati in space, 25% of those were women (Shutterstock)
Updated 12 February 2018
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3,000 Emiratis want to reach for the stars

DUBAI: More than 3,000 Emiratis have applied for the four available training courses to become the UAE’s first astronauts.

Yusuf Al-Shaibani, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, revealed the latest numbers in an update on the UAE’s space program, which was set in train in 2014 with a view to sending a spaceship to Mars by 2021 to coincide with the country’s 50th anniversary.

Al-Shaibani said such a level of applications — from a country with a comparatively small population — compared very favorably with the numbers applying to the American NASA program, which attracted 18,000 applicants.

A quarter of the applicants were women, the youngest was 17 and the oldest was 67. “We wish him luck,” Al-Shaibani said. Just over a fifth of the applicants were ether commercial or military pilots, and many had university qualifications in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, the so-called “Stem” disciplines.

“This is not space tourism, but a real initiative to encourage Emiratis to study science and technology,” Al-Shaibani said.

The applicants will go through a stringent period of assessment and evaluation before the final four are selected to go into full-time training for up to four years, after which they will be qualified to travel to an international space station orbiting Earth.

The search for the first Emirati astronaut is part of the country’s ambitious space program, which also aims to send a mission to Mars, as well as a longer term plan to put human beings on the Red Planet in just under 100 years’ time in domed “colonies,” Al-Shaibani explained.

Mariam Al-Shamsi, director of space science at the Space Center, said the facilities it already had in Dubai enabled it to study what it was like to live on Mars, and to undertake research on the prospects for food, water and energy on the planet.

“The projects are on line and on time. We have finished the engineering design for the Mars satellite, and now we are in the flight development stage,” she said.

The Mars satellite will be a scientific first, because it will enable scientists to take readings and samples of the Martian atmosphere at regular intervals on each day of the year.

The idea is to “build, not buy” the technology for the space initiative, but it depended on international collaboration with other governments and specialist areas of knowledge, Al-Shaibani said.

The UAE partnered with South Korea in the early stages of the program that sent two satellites into space from Dubai. A third, KhalifaSat, is planned to go into orbit this year.


What happened to the Apollo goodwill moon rocks?

Updated 16 June 2019
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What happened to the Apollo goodwill moon rocks?

  • Some of the gifts have either gone missing, were stolen or destroyed over the decades

HOUSTON, Texas: US President Richard Nixon gave moon rocks collected by Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 astronauts to 135 countries around the world and the 50 US states as a token of American goodwill.
While some hold pride of place in museums and scientific institutions, many others are unaccounted for — they have either gone missing, were stolen or even destroyed over the decades.
The list below recounts the stories of some of the missing moon rocks and others that were lost and later found.
It is compiled from research done by Joseph Gutheinz Jr, a retired NASA special agent known as the “Moon Rock Hunter,” his students, and collectSPACE, a website which specializes in space history.

• Both the Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 moon rocks presented to perpetually war-wracked Afghanistan have vanished.

• One of the moon rocks destined for Cyprus was never delivered due to the July 1974 Turkish invasion of the island and the assassination of the US ambassador the following month.
It was given to NASA years later by the son of a US diplomat but has not been handed over to Cyprus.

Joseph Gutheinz, an attorney known as the "Moon Rock Hunter," displays meteorite fragments in his office on May 22, 2019 in Friendswood, Texas. (AFP / Loren Elliot)



• Honduras’s Apollo 17 moon rock was recovered by Gutheinz and Bob Cregger, a US Postal Service agent, in a 1998 undercover sting operation baptized “Operation Lunar Eclipse.”
It had been sold to a Florida businessman, Alan Rosen, for $50,000 by a Honduran army colonel. Rosen tried to sell the rock to Gutheinz for $5 million. It was seized and eventually returned to Honduras.

• Ireland’s Apollo 11 moon rock was on display in Dublin’s Dunsink Observatory, which was destroyed in a 1977 fire. Debris from the observatory — including the moon rock — ended up in the Finglas landfill.

• The Apollo 11 and Apollo 17 moon rocks given to then Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi have vanished.

• Malta’s Apollo 17 moon rock was stolen from a museum in May 2004. It has not been found.

• Nicaragua’s Apollo 17 moon rock was allegedly sold to someone in the Middle East for $5-10 million. Its Apollo 11 moon rock ended up with a Las Vegas casino owner, who displayed it for a time in his Moon Rock Cafe. Bob Stupak’s estate turned it over to NASA when he died. It has since been returned to Nicaragua.

• Romania’s Apollo 11 moon rock is on display in a museum in Bucharest. Romania’s Apollo 17 moon rock is believed to have been sold by the estate of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who was executed along with his wife, Elena, on Christmas Day 1989.


Spain’s Apollo 17 moon rock is on display in Madrid’s Naval Museum after being donated by the family of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, who was assassinated by the Basque separatist group ETA in 1973.
Spain’s Apollo 11 moon rock is missing and is believed to be in the hands of the family of former dictator Francisco Franco.
cl/sst