DUBAI: The vacancy to top all vacancies is still waiting to be filled in the UAE, as the country’s space program continues to search for the next two candidates to be sent to space.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) will keep applications for the UAE Astronaut Program open until March 31, with a possibility of extending until May 1.
The first two Emirati astronauts, Hazzaa Al-Mansouri and Sultan Al-Neyadi, who will also be on the selection board, discussed the expectations they have for the new applicants.
“Passion is very important, and it may be the first thing that pushed me and my colleague Hazzaa Al-Mansouri to apply for the UAE astronaut program,” Al-Neyadi said.
They both said courage, curiosity, good health, educational background, stable mental state, patience, endurance and readiness are all personality traits required to be an astronaut.
“As an astronaut, you shouldn’t only be ready (for dangerous situations). You should also have the right reactions,” Al-Mansouri said.
The UAE will announce the two new astronauts in January 2021 after applicants pass the selection processes, including interviews with experts and doctors, and a series of medical, physical and psychological tests.
Of the more than 3,000 Emiratis to apply, 33 percent are women. As for their professional backgrounds, 17 percent are pilots while 31 percent are engineers.
The three organizations to generate the highest number of applicants are Etihad Airways, the UAE armed forces and Dubai Police.
“Today, we have an engineer and a pilot (among our hopeful astronauts). We hope to recruit a teacher or a doctor, people from a different background to be part of this mission,” said Salem Al-Marri, head of the UAE Astronaut Program at the MBRSC.
After the program’s second batch, the UAE will have four active astronauts ready to be sent to space.
Al-Marri said it is possible that all four will be trained under different programs, and whoever’s qualifications match the new mission best will be chosen.
The program started in April 2017, and the first batch received over 4,000 applications. Al-Mansouri and Al-Neyadi recalled their own experiences training to become the first Emirati astronauts, and said they learned a variety of new skills.
Both of them said their favorite skill picked up during training was learning Russian — the only language used on board the Soyuz spacecraft.