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Nora Al Matrooshi achieves childhood ambition as she’s named first female Arab astronaut

Nora Al Matrooshi achieves childhood ambition as she’s named first female Arab astronaut

When Nora Al Matrooshi was just five-years-old and her kindergarten teacher sat her class under a black tent and asked them to imagine they were on a rocket ship headed to space, she harboured ambitions of turning that image into a reality. And on Wednesday those dreams took a huge step forward as she was

When Nora Al Matrooshi was just five-years-old and her kindergarten teacher sat her class under a black tent and asked them to imagine they were on a rocket ship headed to space, she harboured ambitions of turning that image into a reality.

And on Wednesday those dreams took a huge step forward as she was named first Arab female astronaut who, alongside Mohammad AlMulla, were presented as the second batch of the UAE’s Astronaut Programme, following a rigorous selection process which saw 4,305 applicants whittled down to two.

“When I was applying, I didn’t think of the fact that I would be the first female Arab astronaut if I won. I feel very proud and honoured to be that push or milestone for other women who have a goal or dream but are hesitant to pursue it,” said Al Matrooshi.

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AlMulla and Al Matrooshi are currently undergoing four to six hours of daily training in the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre’s (MBRSC) base in Dubai and are taking classes in Russian, scuba diving, physical fitness and aviation among other subjects.

These in-house lessons are in preparation for the training in NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in the US, where the two young astronauts will be sent towards the end of the year. There, they will be joining fellow Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, who was selected in the programme’s first group, over a period of two-and-a-half years, said Saeed Karmostaji, manager, Astronauts Office, MBRSC.

“Reaching a goal is easy to say but hard to do especially if when you know that to reach that goal, you will be working hard for a long period of time,” said Al Matrooshi, speaking about her achievement at an MBRSC press conference earlier on Wednesday.

“It takes passion, ambition, years of hard work and never giving up to reach your goals or dreams. I am incredibly proud I have achieved my dream, but I am also aware of the level of commitment and responsibility this role has brought,” said Al Matrooshi.

AlMulla and Al Matrooshi are currently undergoing four to six hours of daily training in the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre’s (MBRSC) base in Dubai.

The MBRSC opened registration for the programme’s second batch in December 2019 and went ahead as scheduled with the selection rounds, despite the challenges posed by Covid-19 in 2020, explained Yousuf Hamad Al Shaibani, director-general, MBRSC.

Out of the 4,325 candidates that applied, 34 percent were women and the average age was 27, with the oldest applicant being 60-years-old.

Data from the applications also show a variety of specialisations pursued by the applicants, which include engineering, medicine, science and business administration at 25 percent, two percent, 10 percent and 11 percent, respectively.

The first round of selections saw a shortlist of 2,019 names, which was taken down to 1,000 following personality, skills and intelligence tests.

Three more selection rounds, and several examinations and interviews later, the candidates were narrowed down to 14 (nine men and five women). AlMulla and Al Matrooshi were selected from this pool following face-to-face interviews with the executive committee and astronauts in MBRSC, outlined Al Shaibani.

“The selection process was long and challenging and I learned a lot from it. I am proud to have made it and to have this opportunity to represent my country,” said AlMulla.

Press conference introducing the second batch of the UAE Astronaut Programme.#UAEAstronautProgramme @tdra pic.twitter.com/smFgzxNdFw— MBR Space Centre (@MBRSpaceCentre) July 7, 2021

Through this selection, and the UAE Astronaut Programme in general, a new generation of young Emiratis now aspire to be astronauts and see it as something achievable with hard work, said Salem AlMarri – deputy director general and head of the UAE Astronaut Programme, MBRSC.

The two new astronauts join astronauts Hazzaa AlMansoori and Sultan AlNeyadi to form a team of four under the UAE Astronaut Programme, serving the strategy of the MBRSC base.

In February, theUAE made global headlines when its Hope Probe reached the Mars orbit after 204 days of travel to the red planet. It began to gather data in May after successfully completing practice exercises and ensuring instruments aboard are functioning properly.

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