The race to be part of UAE’s first astronaut corps, EPA, has finally narrowed down to a lucky few. Of the more than 4000 candidates who applied, a mere 18 are left in the reckoning to be a part of this prestigious project that aims to train future astronauts. Out of a total of 4,022 Emiratis who applied to the program, 95 enterprising men and women had been included in the shortlist, out of which 39 had been selected for further shortlisting. The remaining 18 applicants will now have the opportunity to head to the final round of interviews.
The stages of the selection process included a gamut of tests that tested the endurance of the candidates on various levels. These comprised tests that probed deep into the abilities of intelligence, aptitude measurement, neurocognitive abilities, personality and memory. This rigorous phase was followed by a face-to-face interview that estimated the ability of the candidates to deal with the formidable conditions in space This was apart from the fact that the candidates had already emerged from a list of 200 who had taken psychometric tests that analyzed emotional stability, adaptability and IQ.
A chosen 4 of these candidates will have the honor of being the country’s first ever astronaut corps who will travel into space. An agreement with Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency, has been announced and as part of the same, the first astronaut from UAE is expected to be launched into space by April next year. They will be part of the crew on a Soyuz spaceship and are expected to conduct a 10-day long scientific research on-board the International Space Station (ISS).
The agreement with the Russian space agency was announced last month by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, who hailed the move as “historic”. His Twitter feed proclaimed, “Our vision to develop the national space sector, which began 12 years ago, is beginning to bear fruit”.
This project comes amidst a host of other measures that ushered in an era that would see the country take great strides in the field.
The intensive training program will begin once the final selection takes place. Commencing with a year of basic training that would include scientific research and space engineering, advanced training would follow that would deal with developing specialized skills in the areas of navigation, medical care and robotics.
In what has been an acknowledgement of the rising interest in space and a run-up to the Emirates Mars Mission of 2020 , the introduction of a new physics degree course was announced by the American University of Sharjah, which would offer a four-year curriculum focusing on hands-on training and internships at the UAE space agency.