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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 13 November 2018

The National is honoured by UAE Space Agency for news coverage 

The award was handed out as the space agency celebrated its fourth birthday at an event in Abu Dhabi

The Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan June 6, 2018. Reuters
The Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan June 6, 2018. Reuters

The UAE Space Agency has honoured The National for its insightful coverage of space travel and the country's extra-terrestrial ambitions.

The award was collected by journalist James Langton, who has written extensively about the UAE's work, on behalf of the news organisation.

It came as the space agency celebrated its fourth birthday at an event in Abu Dhabi.

Since it was established in 2014, the country's space programme has expanded substantially. Central to this is the Emirates Mars Mission which aims to place a probe named Amal (Hope) into orbit around the Red Planet by 2021.

"Preparations are going great for the Mars mission," Mohammed Al Ahbabi, director general of the agency, said on Thursday.

"We get monthly briefs and it is on time and on budget. Everything is moving along nicely, which is not usual with space projects."

The UAE's astronaut programme is also progressing and nine are now being considered from the more than 4,000 initial applicants. The final four will be sent to the International Space Station.

"There were applications from three generations of the same family," he said "Amazing."

During the event, a video showcased Sheikh Zayed's interest in space and referenced his meeting with three American astronauts in 1976 where he was presented with a model of the US Space Shuttle.

His interest laid the foundations of today's space programme which is expanding rapidly.

In May, a new physics degree was announced that will offer students access to the UAE’s burgeoning space programme.

The four-year course at American University of Sharjah will also offer internships at the UAE Space Agency and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre.

It also aims to help with the Emirates Mars Mission.

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