Watch: Two UAE astronauts, including first Emirati woman, become NASA graduates eligible to fly to ISS, Moon and Mars


Dubai: The second batch of UAE astronauts, including the first Emirati woman astronaut, on Tuesday became NASA graduates eligible to fly to the International Space Station (ISS), the Moon and Mars.

Mechanical engineer Nora Al Matrooshi and her colleague Mohammad Al Mulla, who was a Dubai Police helicopter pilot, and 10 American astronaut candidates graduated as part of the 23rd National Aeronautics and Space Administration Astronaut Class ( Pot).

The duo became the first Arabs to graduate from a NASA class, setting a historic milestone for the country. They received their silver astronaut pin at NASA’s 2024 Astronaut Graduation ceremony honoring the next generation of Artemis astronaut candidates, broadcast live from the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston late Tuesday.

It marked their graduation from basic training and their eligibility to be selected to fly into space. They have completed their training in spacewalks, robotics, space station systems, mastery of the T-38 jet and Russian language.

After completing more than two years of basic training, the Class of 2021 candidates earned their wings. Therefore, they have become eligible for spaceflight, including assignments to the ISS, future commercial destinations, missions to the Moon under the Artemis Program and, eventually, to Mars, said Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, who introduced the 12 newest astronauts.

The group of 23 astronaut candidates, affectionately known as “The Flies”, received thunderous applause from the public, including a team from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) in Dubai. Salem Humaid Al Marri, Director General of the MBRSC, along with the UAE’s first two astronauts, Hazzaa Al Mansoori and Dr. Sultan Al Neyadi, who is also Minister of State for Youth Affairs, were present to witness the historic graduation of the second group of Emirati astronauts.

The ceremony featured the presence and speeches of several NASA veterans. Al Marri was also present with NASA officials as they did the honors.

Will they go to the Moon?

As part of NASA’s Artemis campaign, the agency said it will lay the foundation for long-term scientific exploration on the Moon, bring the first woman, the first person of color and its first international associate astronaut to the lunar surface, and will prepare for the arrival of human beings. expeditions to Mars for the benefit of all.

Members of this NASA class are expected to fly to the surface of the Moon and to NASA’s Gateway space station in lunar orbit, for which the United Arab Emirates is building an airlock, to support the Artemis program. , whose goal is to take astronauts to the south pole of the Moon not before. than 2026.

‘The Flies’ will also be among the first astronauts to undertake missions to the moon since the Apollo astronauts of the 1960s and 1970s, more than half a century ago.

During the graduation ceremony, Jim Free, associate administrator of NASA, said: “You can wear a spacesuit and fly to the Lunar Gateway for which the United Arab Emirates is providing an airlock.”

In a funny clip from The Flies played during the ceremony, the two UAE astronauts could be seen raising their hands and joining the bandwagon of their classmates when asked who wanted to go to the Moon.

However, the MBRSC has yet to announce whether it will choose one of the two new astronauts for its next mission to the Moon. Al Marri had previously said that the four UAE astronauts would be trained and that a nomination would be announced closer to the mission.

What they would take to space

When asked to name a snack they would take with them for their first space flight, Al Mulla said, “For me, it will definitely be MandM,” referring to sweets. “We shared many memories about that survival pack. So, your memory.”

Al Matrooshi said he would bring salt and vinegar chips.

In another video he talked about NASA training. “It’s intense. It is dynamic and very rewarding.”

For her, the most fun part of astronaut training was learning to fly a plane. “Going that fast in a vehicle was exciting,” she said.

The fun part of training for Al Mulla “was being in nature.”

“It’s so surprising, it’s a new experience for me,” he said.

What their peers said about them

Their classmates praised the Emirati astronauts as they were introduced on stage.

NASA astronaut Luke Delaney, a retired U.S. Marine Corps major, said of Al Matrooshi: “Everyone knows that astronaut training is a pretty dynamic and demanding environment, but that’s where having a teammate like Nora is huge. Whether you’re weathering a hail storm on a mountaintop in Wyoming or flying a T38 airplane, you can always count on Nora. She is compassionate. She is not scared. She is always pushing the limits and elevating the team. “Nora, it’s been a great workout with you and I’m looking forward to our next off-planet adventure.”

NASA astronaut Marcos Gabriel Berríos, a major in the U.S. Air Force, said of Al Mulla: “He is selfless and fun. He is generous with his time. He is the first person to put others before himself and does so with an incredible sense of humor, which is a constant joy throughout our training process. Mohammad, we have laughed together, we have cried together, we have done difficult things together. Extremely lucky to have had you as an office mate, as one of my main training partners, and most importantly as a friend, and it would be an absolute honor and privilege to fly into space with you.

Before joining the NASA class, the two astronauts received internal MBRSC training that included swimming, diving, survival exercises, endurance training, airplane flight classes and Russian language training.

What will they do next?

Al Marri previously said he was very happy that the two Emiratis graduated from a NASA class for the first time.

“Historically we have had Canadian, American, Japanese or European astronauts, but this is the first time we have received someone from the United Arab Emirates, making it the fifth or sixth country to graduate from NASA. Very happy with that. They have done a great job. “They have achieved all their objectives.”

After the new batches graduate, he said the MBRSC would have a rotation system for the four Emirati astronauts in Houston and the United Arab Emirates, where they will work in mission control and carry out outreach activities.

“Once they graduate, they will go into a rotation system, where we will most likely have two of our astronauts in Houston for a while and then they will rotate back to Dubai and vice versa,” he said.

“When you don’t have a mission assigned, your jobs are something like Capcom (mission control officer communicating with astronauts on a space mission), working with different partners and on something like Gateway of which our astronauts will be an integral part “.

Once they are selected for a mission, he said they would go to another round of training for a year to a year and a half.

“So that’s going to be your job for the foreseeable future.”

Know their biographies

Noora Al Matrooshi

Nora Al Matrooshi was born in 1993 in Sharjah. She earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the United Arab Emirates University in 2015 and also received training from Vaasa University of Applied Sciences in Finland.

Nora is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and has five years of practical experience in her field. Her professional achievements include managing engineering projects for the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). She was also vice president of the Youth Council for three consecutive years at the National Petroleum Construction Company.

Excelling in engineering and mathematics, Nora placed first in the UAE at the International Mathematics Olympiad 2011. She was also selected for the 2013 UAE Youth Ambassador Program in South Korea.

Her hobbies include reading, writing, drawing and horseback riding, as well as stargazing. In addition to space feats, Nora is also a sports advocate. She participated in the organization of the 9th Special Olympics Mena Games 2018 held in Abu Dhabi and also volunteered for the Special Olympics World Games 2019. She oversaw the implementation of several projects aimed at empowering youth and represented the UAE in the United Nations International Youth Conference. in the Summer 2018 and Winter 2019 editions. She is also a Takatof member of the Emirates Foundation since 2011 and was part of the team that represented the UAE at Expo Milano 2015. She also volunteered for the F1 event in Abu Dhabi in 2015 , 2016 and 2017.
Nora’s passion for space began at a very young age. She liked going to stargazing events and lessons about space were her favorite at school. Her motto is “Do what makes you happy.” She also believes that “the impossible is possible and that you can always succeed with determination and perseverance.”

Mohammad Al Mulla

Mohammad Al Mulla was born in Dubai in 1988. At the age of 19, he obtained a commercial pilot license from the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and became the youngest pilot in Dubai Police.
Al Mulla is also a decorated officer. He received the Medal for Bravery from Sheikh Mohammed and the Commander-in-Chief Award for Best Officer in a Specialized Field, in addition to the Global Excellence Award from Dubai Police.

His passion for space exploration received a boost after meeting Emirati astronauts Hazzaa Al Mansoori and Sultan Al Neyadi at an air show in 2019. After several conversations and discussions with them, Mohammad realized that he was eligible to join the astronaut program and immediately applied for the second batch.
His dream came true.


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