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Pakistan aims to send first astronaut into space by 2022

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan said on Thursday it aims to send its first astronaut into space by 2022 and will begin selecting candidates next year.

Neighbour and long-time rival India put its first astronaut into space in 1984 as part of a Soviet-led mission. It launched a rocket into space on Monday in an attempt to safely land a rover on the moon, its most ambitious mission yet.

Pakistan’s programme, announced 50 years after the U.S. Apollo 11 mission put the first man on the moon, marks a new departure after focusing on developing communication satellites.

“This will be the biggest space event of our history,” Science and Technology Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said in a tweet.

A selection committee would begin choosing candidates in February, he said.

Pakistan’s National Space Agency SUPARCO (Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission) was set up in 1961. It launched its first communication satellite 50 years later with help from a subsidiary of China Aerospace and Technology Corporation.

(Reporting by Mehr Nadeem; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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