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.


Tech accessories: Are these ‘side’ devices worth your money?

Updated 15 October 2018
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Tech accessories: Are these ‘side’ devices worth your money?

  • Tech retailers have continuously introduced side accessories to augment daily gadget use
  • Some accessories can really be helpful, but there are some that are just unnecessary

DUBAI: Using your phone to capture a moment has become second nature. A reflex stimulated by literally any experience – from the time the waiter delivers your food to the table, to the moment your best friend gets married – they are all documented, hundreds and thousands of photos and videos stored in an easily accessible digital storage. Our phones have indeed become our photo albums.

But while the memories we make every day are endless, the storage capabilities of our devices are limited, and tech companies have introduced a number of side accessories that address this rather disconcerting fact.

We take a look at some of the most popular storage-enhancing tech accessories in 2018 – Virtual storage is big business, but is it worth the money and is it necessary?

SanDisk Extreme MicroSDXC UHS-I Card with Adapter

Action cameras have long caught the eye of frequent travelers – if you’re one of them, this might be for you. The SanDisk Extreme memory cards are among the most popular ones in this niche, with its 4K Ultra HD and Full HD video recording and playback capability, especially built for adventurers who are fond of taking content while on the rush. 

The memory card’s selling point is its ability to survive in the most severe conditions. The manufacturers say it still functions in extreme temperatures and after being submerged a meter-deep salt water for three days. 

Read and write speeds are remarkable, especially for a very good deal that does not involve splashing out too much cash – the 32GB version sells at $18.99, while the 256GB sells at $139.99.

SanDisk Ultra MicroSDXC UHS-I Card with Adapter

The SanDisk Ultra memory card is one of my favorites. For starters, the memory capacity ranges from 16GB to a whopping 400GB – and it handles file transfers in a breeze. Packaging suggests a read speed of 100Mbps, with a slightly lower write speed. But over-all performance still depends on the host device – my Samsung Galaxy S9 plus is a perfect match.

Ideal for smartphones and tablets, this high-powered memory card works wonders in capturing and storing full HD videos. I watch a lot of my favorite TV shows on the go – and this memory card’s performance ups that experience by a notch. Smooth app launches are also very noticeable, credit that to its A1 rating, which means that the card is fully optimized for app use.

The higher capacity versions of SanDisk Ultra are worth the extra cash, especially for users who are heavy on storing multimedia content on their mobile devices. 

But cheaper options are available, with the 16GB version at $8.99. The 400GB version sells at $184.99.

SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick 

As the name suggests, the SanDisk Connect Wireless is a USB flash drive that uses built-in Wi-Fi to transfer and stream files wirelessly to and from multiple mobile devices. Available in several memory capacities up to 256GB, this comes with a free mobile app for file management. 

Upon testing, transfer speed is as slow as I expected, as the wireless stick only uses the older USB 2.0 technology – a weird choice in a spur of USB 3.0-capable flash drives. Wireless functionality can easily be dismissed in this area – I’d still use the classic wired-only memory sticks. But the multiple devices streaming feature was interesting, which is probably the product’s main selling point. However, I see very rare instances where this function really becomes necessary. For a $15.99 device, I’d pass on it.

SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive and Mini Flash Drive

Apple devices are notorious for their lack of flexibility when it comes to expanding storage capacity, compared to their Android counterparts, and this product is a clear attempt to address that. The flash drives sport a back-to-back connectivity setup – one for a regular USB port and the other for a lightning USB port, and are available in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB versions.

But these flash drives can easily be brushed aside especially for MacBook or iMac users given Apple’s sophisticated cloud ecosystem. If you want to free up your memory by dumping photos and other media content, you can already do that directly to your laptop without using a thumb drive, potentially rendering this device redundant, if not unnecessary. 

Prices start at $25.99.

SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive m3.0

For Android users there is SanDisk’s Ultra Dual Drive m3.0. With a micro-USB and a USB 3.0 connectors on both ends, this OTG flash drive allows users to move content easily from both phones and computers.

As an Android loyalist myself, the Ultra Dual Drive does its job well in terms of speed and performance. As soon as it’s plugged in, the drive auto-mounts with ease – especially with the newer versions of the Android OS. The USB 3.0 connectivity was good enough for its price with an average write speed of 32Mbps and read speed of 110Mbps. The drive can also be used on USB 2.0 ports in slower read and write paces. 

But this Ultra Dual Drive is slowly becoming obsolete in the face of USB-C mobile phones. Recent releases from Samsung, for instance, are no longer compatible with this device. If USB-C is the future, then this OTG flash drive is definitely out of the list. Other android users can still take advantage of this product though, since some mobile developers have yet to join the USB-C craze. 

Prices start at $9.99.