The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) today announced the graduation of Emirati astronauts NoraAl Matrooshi and Mohammad Al Mulla from the 2021 NASA Astronaut Candidate Class training programme in a ceremony held at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, USA. The milestone marks the culmination of over two years of extensive training, which began in January 2022, and establishes them as fully qualified astronauts ready for future space missions.

The 2021 NASA Astronaut Candidate Class, known as ‘The Flies’ featured ten NASA candidates along with the UAE’s Al Mulla and Al Matrooshi, the latter being the first female Arab astronaut. Each candidate received an astronaut pin at the ceremony, symbolising their readiness for space missions and their contributions to future explorations.

The graduation ceremony was attended by astronaut Dr. Sultan Saif Al Neyadi, Minister of State for Youth Affairs, Salem Humaid Al Marri, Director-General, MBRSC, astronaut Hazzaa Al Mansoori, Astronauts Office Manager, MBRSC, alongside team members from the Centre.

Al Marrisaid, “The comprehensive training undertaken by our cadre of astronauts exemplifies the strategic and multidimensional approach the UAE is taking towards space exploration. Nora and Mohammad's journey from rigorous preparatory training to completing the NASA programme demonstrates their readiness to take part in future missions, significantly contributing to our understanding of space. This achievement is a stepping stone towards our goal of sustainable space exploration, showcasing the UAE as a pioneering force in space science and technology.”

Prior to joining the NASA Astronaut Candidate Class training programme, Al Matrooshi and Al Mulla underwent extensive in-house training at MBRSC. The preparatory phase included swimming, scuba diving, survival exercises and stamina improvement, laying a solid foundation for their subsequent NASA training.

The programme at NASA further expanded their skill set, covering critical areas such as spacewalking at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, robotics, the systems of the International Space Station, piloting the T-38 training jet and Russian language lessons. They also engaged in advanced training exercises such as survival training at Alabama's Fort Novosel and lessons on Earth’s geology, vital for understanding geological structures on other planets and deducing their geological history.

The Emirati astronauts belong to the second batch of the UAE Astronaut Programme, announced in 2021 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. MBRSC received 4,305 applications for these positions. The applicants underwent multiple evaluation and qualification phases, conforming to international standards, before the final selection of two candidates.

The UAE Astronaut Programme is one of the projects managed by MBRSC under the UAE’s National Space Programme and funded by the ICT Fund of the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA), which aims to support research and development in the ICT sector in the UAE and promote the country’s integration on the global stage.