International Space Station
International Space Station

The ruler of Dubai has announced the names of two astronauts from the United Arab Emirates who will be heading to the International Space Station, a first for the Gulf nation.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also serves as the UAE's vice president and prime minister, made the announcement Monday on Twitter.

Sheikh Mohammed named the astronauts as Hazza al-Mansouri and Sultan al-Nayadi. Their missions are scheduled for next year.

The UAE has a fledgling space program with big ambitions. It hopes to launch its first locally made satellite, KhalifaSat, in October from Japan. It also wants to launch a probe to Mars in 2020.

The UAE says it wants to colonize Mars by 2117, with a fully functioning city of 600,000.