DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates named the next two astronauts in its space program Saturday, including the country’s first female astronaut.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai who also serves as the autocratically ruled country’s prime minister and vice president, named the two astronauts on Twitter.
He identified Noura al-Matroushi as the UAE’s first female astronaut, with her male counterpart as Mohammed al-Mulla.
A later government promotional video described al-Matroushi, born in 1993, as an engineer at the Abu Dhabi-based National Petroleum Construction Co.
Al-Mulla, born in 1988, serves as a pilot with Dubai police and heads their training division, the government said.
The two had been selected among more than 4,000 applicants in the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula that’s also home to Abu Dhabi.
The two will undergo training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
If al-Matroushi ends up going on a mission, she could become the first Arab woman in space, the UAE government said.
Anousheh Raissyan, an Iranian-American telecommunications entrepreneur and millionaire from Dallas, became the first Muslim woman and first Iranian in space when she traveled as a self-funded civilian to the International Space Station in 2006. She reportedly paid $20 million to travel there as a tourist.
The first Muslim in space was Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman, who joined the crew of the shuttle Discovery in 1985.
In 2019, Maj. Hazzaa al-Mansoori became the UAE’s first astronaut in space, spending an eight-day mission aboard the International Space Station.
The Emirates has had other recent successes in its space program. This February, the UAE put its Amal, or Hope, satellite in orbit around Mars, a first for the Arab world. In 2024, the country hopes to put an unmanned spacecraft on the moon.
The UAE also has set the ambitious goal of building a human colony on Mars by 2117.