UAE’s search for next astronaut down to four candidates


The UAE’s search for the next astronaut to head into space has been whittled down to the final four candidates.

More than 4,000 hopefuls were reduced to 14 in December and now the four finalists are undergoing psychological evaluation at Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre.

The final selection phase will see the candidates rigorously tested to ensure they have what it takes to hold their own in space.

The psychological evaluations are being carried out in collaboration with Emirates airline after the candidates underwent their final interviews.

Two candidates will be chosen from the final four with only one slated to go to space, while the other becomes their reserve.

“In the last phase, the committee measured the candidates’ teamwork capabilities, and other skills such as constructive problem solving, decision making, execution, management and flexibility, to choose the best candidates for the second batch of the UAE Astronaut Programme,” said Humaid Al Sharhan, from the astronauts office at MBRSC.

Psychological assessments test resilience, leadership, teamwork and support skills, problem solving, decision making as well as procedures and work management.

It is unclear if any of the candidates are women. In the previous stage, five of the 14 shortlisted were women, raising hopes of another landmark moment for the UAE.

An impressive 4,305 Emiratis applied to join the UAE’s space fleet, with 1,400 women among them – about 250 more than during the country’s previous astronaut recruitment drive.

Two UAE citizens will be selected to follow in the footsteps of the first Emirati man in space, Maj Hazza Al Mansouri, and reserve astronaut Dr Sultan Al Neyadi.

The UAE puts great emphasis on gender equality. Emirati women lead the way in various fields, including the mission to Mars, and the country was number one in a global ranking this year for women in parliament.

The space sector is known to be male-dominated in many parts of the world, but at Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, in Dubai, 42 per cent of the staff are women.

Published: February 23, 2021 07:43 PM