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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

A veteran F-16 fighter pilot and an electronics wiz - meet the UAE's first astronauts

Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Saif Al Neyadi will train at Russia's Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre
Sultan Saif Al Neyadi, a doctor of information technology, left, and Hazza Al Mansouri, a military pilot, are the first Emirati astronauts. 

One is a veteran fighter pilot who has been exposed to speeds of g-force 9 when flying F-16s jets.

The other is a top information technology expert who has worked to ensure crucial data is kept safe.

And together Hazza Al Mansouri, 34, and Sultan Saif Al Neyadi, 37, will undergo space training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre outside Moscow - making history in the process as the first Emiratis there.

One will be chosen to blast off in a Soyuz rocket next April on a mission to the International Space Station.

During their training they will be exposed to high gravitational speeds that will mimic the journey to space - and which would make many untrained humans pass out.

They will also undergo diving exercises lasting hours to prepare them for working on the zero-gravity ISS, and potentially outside in space.

For Al Mansouri, high speeds are nothing new - he flies the UAE air force's F-16 Block 60, one of the most advance aircraft in the skies.

An aviation graduate of Khalifa bin Zayed Aviation College, he has amassed more than 14 years of experience in military aviation.

He has undergone a range of training exercises in the UAE and abroad, including water rescue operations and acceleration training of up to 9G.

Al Mansouri has also been part of Exercise Red Flag, which the US Air Force holds several times per year in the skies above Nevada or Alaska. It sees the best pilots of the US, Nato and their allies perform realistic air-combat exercises.

His colleague, Al Seyadi, has been at the forefront of information technology and has worked for the UAE military for many years.

He holds a PhD in information technology specialising in data leak prevention from the Griffith University in Queensland. He has also studied at the University of Brighton in the UK.

According to his biography, he has participated in international conferences and his research papers have been published in international journals.

Both are expected to become household names in the months to come.

As the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi wrote on Monday: "We have great confidence in our children carrying the banner of innovation, excellence and distinction."

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Read more:

Countdown to history: The inside story of how the UAE landed its first place in space

UAE astronaut candidates begin intensive physical testing in Russia

We have lift-off: UAE's Khalifa Sat to be launched into space