Who Is the UAE Sending into Space?

02 October 2018

Lab Chat

The UAE this month announced that it would be proudly sending the first ever Arab astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Niadi overcame a gruelling selection process to achieve the coveted prize, with the news being announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed via his Twitter account.

“It's a new Arab achievement announcing the names of the first Arab astronauts of the International Space Station,” tweeted the Sheikh. “Hazza and Sultan, who represent all Arab youth, raise the ceiling of ambitions for the coming generations of Emiratis. Congratulations to our people and our youth.”

The cream of the crop

The Emirati pair became the first ever Arab astronauts to spend time aboard the ISS and beat off no small amount of competition to do so. From a field of over 4,000 applicants, Al Mansouri and Al Niadi were two of 39 Emiratis to make it past the initial preliminary round of judgement. 18 of those advanced to the final interview stage, with nine being selected to go to the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos.

There, the nine finalists were subjected to six stages of rigorous physical, medical and psychological examinations. They also underwent a series of personal interviews with NASA personnel before being selected. This final selection and training process lasted a full three weeks and according to his father, Al Niadi didn’t even tell his family about his enrolment until he had been accepted.

“The UAE is always encouraging our youth to be the best and to join new fields of scientific innovation; my hope is that my son will succeed in his mission and take our country to new heights,” said Saif Muftah Al Niadi. “The field of space is a new domain for our country, and it will be the new generation of our young sons and daughters that will ensure its success and development.”

What is the ISS?

The ISS is an artificial satellite capable of sustaining human life, otherwise known as a space station. After the deterioration of the Chinese space station Tiangog-1, which led to it falling back to the Earth and burning up in the process earlier this year, the ISS is currently the only habitable space station in orbit.

Its first components were sent into space 20 years ago, while the final pressurised module was launched in 2011. It is still undergoing assembly and development, with more sections earmarked for delivery to the ISS both this year and the next. Maintaining an altitude of between 205 and 270 miles above the Earth, the satellite completes approximately 15 orbits every day.

Its purpose is to monitor, investigate and record how the space environment and its lack of gravity affects various different fields, including astronomy, biology, human biology, meteorology and physics, among others. The addition of two Emirati astronauts to its crew signals a strong step for the UAE in particular and the Arab world in general.

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