The Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced on Twitter the names of the two UAE astronauts who will be heading to the International Space Station for the first time in the history of the country and the Arab world.

The sheikh revealed the names of Hazza al-Mansouri and Sultan al-Nayadi. Their missions are scheduled for next year.

The two finalists were among the nine candidates selected for the final phase. They were subjected to an “intensive evaluation” in Russia by experts from the Russian space agency Roscosmos. The new Emirati astronauts will be trained in Russia.

One of them will join the crew of a Russian commander and a US astronaut on the space flight Soyuz MS-12, which is scheduled to launch towards the International Space Station (ISS) in April 2019.

The UAE has a developing space program with great ambitions. They hope to launch their first satellite manufactured in the country, the KhalifaSat, in October from Japan. They also want to launch a probe to Mars in 2020, investing 20 billion Dirhams into the space program.

The Emirates indicated that they want to colonize Mars by 2117, with a city in full operation with 600,000 inhabitants. It is to be noted that still no evidence has been found relating to the presence of life or elements necessary for life at Mars while NASA has opened doors for Moon Colonization where the evidence of ice water has been discovered and proven.

UAE is not the only country aiming to send their manned mission to space, India has also announced the same last month but with a difference that India is going to launch its own spaceship while UAE astronauts will be on board the Russian ship.