Pakistan on Thursday announced it would send its first astronaut to space in 2022 and the selection process would begin next year. The country will use its ally China’s satellite launching facility for the mission, according to Dawn.

“Proud to announce that selection process for the first Pakistani to be sent to Space shall begin from February 2020, 50 people will be shortlisted,” Pakistan’s Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said in a tweet. “List will then come down to 25 and in 2022 we will send our first person to space,this will be the biggest space event of our history.”

This came days after India’s space agency Indian Space Research Organisation successfully launched its second lunar mission, Chandrayaan 2, on July 22.

Chaudhry said the Pakistani Air Force would play a leading role in the selection process. “The Air Force will be the custodian of the selection process, all around the world pilots are selected for space missions,” Chaudhry told Dawn. He added that in the final round 10 pilots out of 50 would be trained and eventually one pilot would be sent to space.

Last year, Pakistan launched two indigenously built satellites into orbit, using a Chinese Long March (LM-2C) rocket, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in China, The Express Tribune reported.

One of them was a remote sensing satellite – that is dual purpose Earth observational and optical satellite. The second test satellite launched was a PAK-TES-1A to enhance satellite manufacturing capabilities in the country.

Pakistan’s National Space Agency 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.