The United Arab Emirates on Monday announced it would be sending two astronauts to the International Space Station in 2019.
Emirati astronauts Hazza al-Mansouri, 34, and Sultan al-Neyahdi, 37, will “raise the bar of ambitions for future Emirati generations,” tweeted UAE Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed.
Last year, Sheikh Mohammed promised to send four Emirati astronauts into space before the end of 2022.
The UAE has invested $5.4 billion in a space program that aims to send an Arab-built satellite into space this October. Emirati scientists are also working on a probe that is set to orbit Mars by 2020.
“The astronaut program would make the UAE one of only a handful of states in the Middle East to have sent a person into space, as it looks to make good on a pledge to become a global leader in space exploration,” reports Newsmax.
Thinking long-term, the UAE wants to establish a human settlement on Mars by 2117. Construction is already underway on a “Mars City” in Dubai that will simulate life on the red planet.
Dubai’s space program is unique to the Middle East, and the UAE hopes to become a regional hub for space technology as it moves away from oil and gas.
“This region was a strong contributor to society over 1,000 years ago,” says Salem Humaid AlMarri, assistant director general for science and technology at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in Dubai. “It’s time that we come back, it’s not impossible…The UAE is leading by example. We are showing that we can do it.”
In the background you have a global space competition that has China aiming for the moon and Trump dreaming about weaponizing space. It’s not surprising the Middle East would want to participate – if nothing else just to have the expertise to be able to send a person into space.
Only two Arabs have ever been to outer space – Sultan bin Salman Al-Saud, who flew on a US mission in 1985, and Syrian air force pilot Muhammed Faris, who spent a week on the Soviet Union space station Mir.
Editor’s note: This appears to be the Islamic world attempting to compete in the newly renewed space race. A “global leader” they will never be, but if Trump’s Space Force is formed, and the corresponding Chinese space objectives are realized, it may be their only possibility to be militarily adeqaute.