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. The announcement gave no biographical information about her or her male counterpart, Mohammed al-Mulla.
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.
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.