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The new colonial movement: The United Arab Emirates has announced their plans to establish an astronaut corps that would fly on the manned spacecraft of other nations.
The first of those astronauts would fly by the end of 2021, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE. “We have not decided on who will be flying us yet,” he said. “We do envisage that we partner up with all of the major space agencies, somehow and in some structure.”
There would be several options for the UAE to choose from, including Soyuz flights by Russia to the International Space Station and Shenzhou flights to a Chinese space station slated to be completed by the early 2020s. Other options include flights on commercial crew vehicles being developed by Boeing and SpaceX.
To me, the really exciting aspect of this is that the UAE is now a new customer looking for a means to get its people into space, which makes all those manned programs, including the American private companies, competitors for that business.