Dubai: Emirati teachers and medical doctors, you are wanted.
The deadline for the application process for the UAE Astronaut Programme has been extended until March 31 this year to accommodate more applications and encourage more applicants from different fields to apply.
The hunt for the UAE’s first astronauts was launched on December 6 last year to choose and train four Emiratis within the next four years to go to space and join other astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS).
The Emirati astronauts will be tasked to carry out vital experiments and work that “will contribute to the scientific community’s understanding of human space flight to meet future challenges, such as a manned mission to Mars”.
Currently, the Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has received around 3,000 applications. The centre is calling for more and from two very specific fields — education and medicine.
“We have about 3,000 people that have initially applied and 60 per cent of them were from science and technology and about 20-23 per cent were pilots,” Salem Humaid Al Merri, assistant director-general for Scientific and Technical Affairs at the MBRSC and programme manager of UAE Astronaut Programme, told Gulf News.
“This number is very good but we would like to have more educators. So if you look at the percentage, about 80 per cent is from other fields. We don’t have many educators that have applied. We want primary and high schoolteachers and university professors.”
Al Merri said an educator’s skills set is crucial to the mission.
“They can conduct lessons in space, they can conduct scientific experiments for their students in space and they can talk to a huge segment of the population. As teachers, they are very relatable,” he said.
American astronauts who are teachers and former teachers are on the ISS today.
Al Merri said they also require medical doctors to be part of the team to help study the effects of space on the human body.
“We don’t have many medical doctors who applied. But there are many UAE nationals who excel in this field. Their perspective on things that affect the human body is very different from what an engineer or a scientist would have. So our message is: Doctors and teachers, you’re wanted!”
Al Merri said the selection team will still choose the “best of the best” and include people with wide-ranging skills.
“In an ideal world, and I’m not saying this is going to happen, but we might choose one pilot, one could be an engineer or a scientist, one could be a teacher, and one could be a medical doctor, that would be ideal. But today, we’re not segmenting it based on those segments.”
Based on the applications they have so far received, the youngest applicant is 17 and the oldest is 67. One in four applicants is female.
2017: Start of application evaluation, launch of online application
2018: First round medical and psychometric test
Start of first interview round
Intensive medical and psychometric test
Start of second interview round
2019: Selection of Astronaut Corp
Who may apply?
Minimum Age: 18+
Language: Proficiency in Arabic and English
Education: University graduate (Bachelor’s or higher)
Training: Basic classroom training about the International Space Station and space flight generally. Other training includes survival training, swimming tests and exposure to high and low atmospheric pressures, doing simulated spacewalks in a buoyancy laboratory, among others.