Russia is training cosmonauts from Saudi Arabia as both countries are preparing for a joint manned space mission, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak was quoted as saying in a government statement on Tuesday.
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“Speaking of the two countries’ work on the joint use of outer space, Alexander Novak said the work under way was promising, in particular on the training of cosmonauts and the development of a joint manned space mission,” the government said after an online meeting of the intergovernmental commission of Russia and Saudi Arabia.
The government statement provided no further details.
Russia is ready to start building its own space station with the aim of launching it into orbit by 2030 if President Vladimir Putin gives the go-ahead, Roscosmos space agency said in April.
The project would mark a new chapter for Russian space exploration and an end to more than two decades of close cooperation with the United States aboard the aging International Space Station (ISS).
The chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Space Authority, Abdullah Alswaha emphasised at the time that the authority was working on a strategy, in cooperation with the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, to invest in the space industry.
“The objectives of the strategy will be in line with the goals and targets of Vision 2030, which underlined the importance and vitality of the space sector, with the aim of taking advantage of the promising opportunities to build a knowledge economy based on the latest technologies and innovations,” Alswaha said.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz “is behind investing in the space world to reach the ranks of developed countries and to seize the largest possible opportunities,” Alswaha added in a statement.
He stressed the authority’s keenness to make the Kingdom one of the most advanced countries in the space economy, the size of whichit is estimated will be more than a trillion dollars by 2040.
Observers say Saudi Arabia is hoping to join the United Arab Emirates at the space race top table. In 2019, the first Emirati astronaut, Hazza al-Mansouri, rocketed into space, hitching a ride to the International Space Station with the Russians. That’s 58 years after the Soviet Union and the US launched astronauts.
In February this year, a spacecraft from the UAE swung into orbit around Mars, in a triumph for the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission.
Thirty-five years ago, the then 28-year-old Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman became the first Arab, Muslim and royal to be blasted into space on the Columbia shuttle to spend a week on the ISS.
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