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UAE to become first Arab country to send astronaut on six-month space mission

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti onboard, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. [oel Kowsky/NASA via Getty Images]
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti onboard, Wednesday, April 27, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. [oel Kowsky/NASA via Getty Images]

The UAE will send an astronaut on a long-term mission to the International Space Station (ISS) next year, becoming the first Arab state to do so.

After purchasing a seat on a SpaceX rocket from private firm Axiom Space, the UAE will take part in the six-month mission. The Emirati astronaut will be part of the SpaceX Crew-6 mission, scheduled for launch in the first half of 2023 at the Kennedy Space Centre in the US State of Florida.

Announcing the move on Friday, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) stated it will be "the first Arab long-duration space mission."

The announcement follows an agreement signed on Wednesday between the MBRSC and Axiom Space at the UAE's embassy in Washington.

"It is our great pleasure to sign the agreement with the United Arab Emirates' Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, marking the first time a commercial space company has made such a mission possible," said Michael Suffredini, president and CEO of Axiom Space.

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"Axiom Space is proud to provide MBRSC with a flight opportunity for a UAE astronaut, enabling its first long-term mission to the ISS."

Last year, the UAE' made history with the Hope Probe by becoming the first Arab country and the fifth globally to reach the planet Mars. The mission has since discovered a new type of aurora on the Red Planet, challenging scientists' understanding of the planet, which was thought not to possess auroras at all.

The UAE also has plans to carry out a lunar landing by 2024 as part of a $100 million project in collaboration with Israel. The project is a result of an agreement signed between Israeli space company SpaceIL and the UAE and will be the first double-landing on the moon in space exploration history.

The mission called Beresheet 2 comes after the original 2019 mission failed shortly after launch and is one of the latest partnerships between the two countries following the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020.

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