Two Emirati astronauts are set to become the first Arabs ever to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) having been selected out of over 4,000 applicants.
On Monday, Dubai's Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced that Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi will become the country's first-ever nationals to go to space as part of the UAE Astronaut Program.
The duo has been chosen from a pool of 4,022 contenders who applied for Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center's UAE Astronaut Program, which aimed to find the nation's first astronauts.
"Hazza and Sultan represent all young Arabs and represent the pinnacle of the UAE's ambitions," Sheikh Mohammed wrote on Twitter.
According to Khaleej Times, only one of the two astronauts will fly to space in April 2019 for a 10-day mission to the ISS, a habitable artificial satellite in low-Earth orbit, aboard a Russian spacecraft.
Meanwhile, the other one will serve as a backup and will be trained for future space missions.
"Just as there are no limits to space, there is no limit to our ambitions to accomplish further achievements for our country. We have great confidence in our youth in carrying the banner of innovation, achievement and excellence.”
Meet the UAE's first astronauts
34-year-old Al Mansouri is a military pilot with a bachelor's degree in Aviation Science and Military Aviation from the Khalifa bin Zayed Air College, along with 14 years of military aviation experience, according to Arabian Business.
Meanwhile, 37-year-old Al Neyadi has a Ph.D. in Data Leakage Prevention Technology, as well as a master's degree in Information and Networks Security from Australia's Griffith University. He also has a bachelor's degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from England's Brighton University.
Both astronauts hail from Abu Dhabi.
Not the first Arabs in space
Only two Arabs have successfully gone to outer space so far.
At the mere age of 28, Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud became the first Arab, Muslim, and member of the Saudi royal family to visit outer space in 1985.
His seven-day mission took off from the American Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39, in an operation to deploy a satellite for the Arab Satellite Communications Organisation.
Two years later, Syrian military pilot Muhammed Faris made his own journey to the stars on a joint mission with the Soviets.