The Tunisian space dream is coming true. After sending its first satellite in March, Tunisia signs a contract with Russia to send its first astronaut, a woman, into space. This was revealed in an exclusive interview with Mohamed Frikha, general manager of Tunisian satellite manufacturer Telnet, and Tarek Ben Salem, Tunisian ambassador in Moscow.
After the launch, last March of its first 100% Tunisian satellite to the ISS using the Russian shuttle Soyuz, the land of Jasmine is stepping up its space ambitions, still within the framework of its partnership with Moscow.
On August 13, Tunisia came a little closer to realizing its space dream: to send its first astronaut, a Tunisian, into space. It is an agreement concluded on Friday in Moscow between this Maghreb country and the Russian space agency Roscosmos which gives this objective precise contours.
In an interview with Sputnik, Mohamed Frikha, managing director of Tunisian satellite manufacturer Telnet Holding, and Tarek Ben Salem, Tunisian ambassador to Moscow, express their hope of seeing the Tunisian astronaut in space at the end of 2022.
Explaining why Tunisia choose the Russian program: Mohamed Frikha, Managing Director of Telnet, explained that the “relations with Russia began two years ago with the dispatch of the first Tunisian satellite, Challenge One.”
The ‘challenge one’ was sent with the Soyuz 2 space shuttle. This choice was made “because we see that this shuttle has a very good success rate with very advantageous sending conditions”. This was the starting point for our relations with the Russian space agency. The agreement signed today [August 13, ed] to send a Tunisian astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS) is just a continuation of it.
This agreement was signed by myself and by Mr Dmitri Rogozine, director-general of Roscosmos and President Putin’s special representative for space. Tunisian President Kaïs Saïed spoke by videoconference from the presidential palace in Carthage, Tunisia.
Africa and the Arab world
Tunisia wants to be a platform for space in Africa and the Arab world, said Mohamed Frikha. “As Tunisians, we want to participate with all Terrans in space research. It is important. It gives hope to young people, it also gives a spirit of responsibility.”
Tunisia, even as a small country, without natural resources, is full of skills and brainpower. “We can participate in space-related discoveries, which concern all of humanity, with developed countries such as Russia, the USA, Europe, Japan, and all the countries participating in the International Space Station.”
According to Tunisian Ambassador in Moscow, Tarek Ben Salem, August 13 is the date marks the feast of the Tunisian woman. “Tunisian women had a special status in the Arab world from August 13, 1956. It is a symbolic date. It is a highlighting of the role played by women in Tunisian society.”
So there are two dreams linked in this agreement. The first is obviously to send a Tunisian astronaut. The second is that this astronaut is a woman. It is to honor the Tunisian woman that this proposal came directly from the President of the Republic after the success of sending the first satellite.
Training and dispatch times for this first astronaut
Mohamed Frikha revealed to Sputnik news that the agreement having been signed, and meetings will be held on Monday to define the roadmap. By the end of the year, “we should define the selection criteria, receive the applications and choose a pool of potential candidates”.
This group will be formed, will follow the necessary training and training until at least the first half of 2022. “We will then choose two young women, a principal, and an assistant.” The mission should materialize towards the end of 2022 or in 2023.