The race to join the UAE’s first astronaut training programme is down to the final 18 candidates.
With 4,022 Emiratis originally applying, a shortlist of 95 men and women was whittled down to 39. Now now the remaining 18 candidates will proceed to the final interview stage.
Four of these will form the country’s first astronaut corps and travel into space. The first UAE astronaut will lift off next April as part of the agreement reached with Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency.
As part of the crew on a Soyuz spaceship, they will spend 10 days conducting scientific research on the International Space Station (ISS) before returning to Earth.
The 39 went through a round of tests that included a range of activities to measure intelligence, aptitude, neurocognitive ability, personality, and working memory, according to the MBRSC.
It was followed by face to face interviews in which the candidates were assessed on their mental and physical strengths to see how they would measure up to the testing conditions in space.
The 95 candidates had come from a longlist of 200 which had taken psychometric tests for up to six hours that analysed IQ, emotional stability and adaptability.
It was announced last year that the UAE was creating an astronaut corps, with the aim of sending an Emirati into space by 2021.
The deal with the Russian space agency was announced last month by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, who called it an “historic agreement.”
"Our vision to develop the national space sector, which began 12 years ago, is beginning to bear fruit,” Sheikh Mohammed wrote on his Twitter feed.
The Emirates Mars Mission, the construction of the first UAE-made satellite KhalifaSat and the training of Emirati astronauts are all examples of the country's progression in the field.
Overall training to become an astronaut will take about three years. Once the astronaut corps has been selected, one year of basic training begins which includes space engineering and scientific research. Advanced training follows and that will include developing specialised skills in the areas relating to robotics, navigation and medical care.
In May, a new physics degree was announced that will offer students direct access to the UAE's burgeoning space programme to boost their interest and ready them for the final frontier of science.
The four-year course at American University of Sharjah will offer practical, hands-on training and also internships at the UAE Space Agency and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre.
It also aims to help with the Emirates Mars Mission slated for 2020.