26 June 2018

MBRSC and Etihad Airways ink agreement to carry out medical assessments for UAE astronaut programme candidates

  • 95 candidates take next step in screening process for UAE Astronaut Programme

Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and Etihad Airways have signed an agreement to carry out the astronaut medical assessment on the 95 candidates shortlisted as part of the UAE Astronaut Programme. Performed by the aviation and aerospace medical team at the Etihad Airways Medical Centre (EAG Medical Services), these assessments mark the next step in creating the first-ever batch of Emirati astronaut corps. An integral part of the UAE National Space Programme, the UAE Astronaut Programme is geared to train Emirati astronauts for different scientific space missions.

‘These tests are a crucial component of the astronaut selection and training process. Assessing the health of a candidate from both a physical and psychological perspective is critical in assessing his or her suitability to undertake space missions. Spaceflight and exploration can often be a challenging process, and these tests assure us the candidates are capable of enduring the difficult conditions,’ notes Salem Al Marri, Assistant Director General for Scientific and Technical Affairs at MBRSC.

He adds, ‘EAG Medical Services ran a battery of medical tests as well as the necessary psychometric tests, and assessed the candidates in line with international standards. We are very impressed with the high quality and wide spectrum of services offered by EAG Medical Services and are certain they will assist us in finding the best candidates to become the first Emirati astronauts.’

Qualified and competent aerospace specialist physicians at Etihad Medical Services conducted the intensive medical exams. This is one of the few facilities in the region staffed with such specialists, who have an understanding of the environment in space and its requirements. The exams included exhaustive medical check-ups that followed international best practices in line with NASA standards. 

The assessment was an intensive four-day evaluation process, spanning comprehensive physical and psychometric testing. The physical exam included complete cardiology, ophthalmology, ENT and dental work-ups, a comprehensive lab investigation, and a complete head-to-toe physical examination. This was followed by two parts of psychometric testing — basic and intensive — in order to understand personality, attitude and psychological wellbeing of the candidates.  

Ibrahim Nassir, Deputy Chief People and Performance Officer, Etihad Aviation Group, and Senior Vice President HR, Etihad Airways, said: ‘Etihad is excited to be a part of the initiative to send men and women from the UAE into space, which is an important step in achieving the vision the UAE’s leaders have drawn up for the nation’s future. Medical screening for astronauts is a multi-phased process, each aspect of which needs to be performed to specific standards – which will all be carried out by Etihad.’

Dr. Nadia Bastaki, Vice President Medical Services, Etihad Aviation Group, said: “I’m delighted to be working with the MBRSC on this important project. We evaluated the physical and mental fitness of the astronauts.”

The applicants shortlisted by the MBRSC — comprising 75 men and 20 women — were whittled down from a total 4,022 applications to the UAE Astronaut Programme. The candidates wield experience in diverse backgrounds including civil aviation, air force, medicine, STEM and education.

MBRSC is continuing to take steps towards selecting the top candidates, who will go on to comprise the first batch of UAE astronauts. The UAE Astronaut Programme is funded by the ICT fund of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). Launched in 2007, this fund, which is the first of its kind in the Arab world, aims towards supporting research and development within the ICT sector in the UAE, helping it to grow into a nationally significant industry with a leading place in the world.

Photo caption: Ibrahim Nasser (Left) and Salem Humaid Al Murri (Right)