Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 April 2020

Space officials intensify campaign to find UAE’s next astronaut

The second round of applications opened on December 14 last year and officials received more than 1,000 resumes in just a few hours

Hazza Al Mansouri has become a national hero since his mission to the International Space Station. AP 
Hazza Al Mansouri has become a national hero since his mission to the International Space Station. AP 

The UAE is on the lookout for the country’s next astronaut as space officials have launched targeted campaigns to find the right candidate.

A team from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has visited several government departments and universities to ensure they find “quality over quantity”.

The deadline to apply for the UAE Astronaut Programme closes on March 31.

The second round of applications opened on December 14 last year and MBRSC received more than 1,000 resumes in just a few hours.

“We are doing a targeted campaign, where we go to entities that we think have the type of people we are looking for – generally, that’s medical background, education and military pilots,” Salem Al Marri, the head of the UAE Astronaut Programme at MBRSC, told The National.

“We are also doing an overall campaign to encourage everyone to apply. For us, it’s not about quantity, but quality. We are always trying to find the most suitable people who can apply.”

An accomplished fighter jet pilot, Hazza Al Mansouri, became the first Emirati astronaut to be sent into space in September last year. He was the first Arab to work on the International Space Station.

For us, it’s not about quantity, but quality. We are always trying to find the most suitable people that can apply

Salem Al Marri

He was picked from 4,022 applicants for the first UAE Astronaut Programme after a series of advanced medical and psychological tests.

Sultan Al Neyadi, who was Mr Al Mansouri’s back up astronaut, holds a PhD in Information Technology Data Leakage Prevention from Griffith University.

An Emirati who has reapplied for the astronaut programme this year, is commercial pilot Ahmed Al Ali.

He has logged more than 8,000 hours of flying time and is currently a Boeing 777 captain.

Mr Al Ali was not shortlisted the first time but hopes for a positive result in the second round.

“I am glad I applied the first time – it was a great learning experience,” he said.

“To help me get selected this time, I’ll probably speak more Arabic than English. There are many things I could get better at and I hope I have fixed many of them by now.”

Mr Al Ali is one of many Emiratis hoping to be shortlisted.

Mr Al Mansouri and Mr Al Neyadi, who have become icons now, have been touring schools and universities to share their experience and encourage Emiratis to apply.

“They’ve been going to many different schools, meeting thousands of pupils,” Mr Al Marri said.

“There have been massive number of people attending. There’s a lot of interest. They have also been going to hospitals and government departments to talk about our mission and what’ll be happening going forward.”

The astronauts will be going on a regional tour to share their experiences.

Updated: February 19, 2020 06:32 PM

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