Nora Al Matrooshi looking forward to NASA’s flight training

Arab world’s first female astronaut is slated to begin training early next year

  
Nora al-Matrooshi, 28, member of the UAE's astronaut programme and the first female Arab astronaut, reacts during a news conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, July 7, 2021.

Nora al-Matrooshi, 28, member of the UAE's astronaut programme and the first female Arab astronaut, reacts during a news conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, July 7, 2021.

REUTERS/Rula Rouhana

Nora Al Matrooshi, the Arab world’s first female astronaut is looking forward to her flight training at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas in the US, which she is slated to begin early next year.

The 28-year-old spoke exclusively to Khaleej Times, on the sidelines of the International Meeting for Members of Parliament Programme on Sunday ahead of the International Astronautical Congress 2021 that will commence in Dubai from Monday.

“I am looking forward to learning how to fly. My colleague, Mohammed Al Mulla, is a helicopter pilot and the way he talks about flying feels amazing. So, I really want to try that.

"Hazzaa also talks about flying passionately and so does Sultan, as both of them have been flying for a while now. I am really looking forward to that part of the training”, she said.

Giving a sneak-peak into the duo’s recent visit at the Johnson Space Centre, where all the four astronauts met for the first time together, Al Matrooshi avers that the UAE’s veteran astronauts Maj Hazza Al Mansouri and Dr Sultan Al Neyadi were particularly helpful in showing them around Houston and the training centers at the NASA facility.

The second batch of the UAE Astronaut Programme is due to begin their rigorous 30-month training programme in early 2022.

“At NASA, we visited their different facilities. We got to know some of the administrators there. Hazzaa and Sultan took us around Houston, getting us ready to move there. We saw the place and saw some of the training as well.

"They told us a bit more about the training that we’ll be doing. We haven’t met our NASA peers yet but hopefully, either by December or January we will meet our new batch mates,” Al Matrooshi added.

Space to help build an innovation-driven economy

Shedding light on tightening cooperation in the growing global space industry, by boosting spatial research and astronautic activities in the UAE, country’s new astronaut Mohammad Al Mulla opined, “The UAE is constantly trying to invest in the space industry. They are using space technology to make our economy strong.

"I hope as astronauts from this region we can contribute fruitfully in this field, for our country. They are investing a lot in us as well, so it’s a big responsibility and both Nora and I will try our level best.”

While the conference also focused on space solutions for the benefit of civil society, Al Mulla underlined such meetings provide a constructive platform to build on countries’ shared ties, as nations create a competitive, innovation-driven economy.

He said, “The conference is being hosted by an Arab country for the first time. But I am not surprised because the UAE is hosting the biggest events and conferences around the world.

"To have the conference being held here is especially good for us because we are looking forward to gathering experience from other astronauts around the world.

"The event will have deliberations and talks by thought leaders in this field. So, this will be enlightening for all stakeholders and will harness the future of the economy.”

Elucidating on legislations and the laws regulating the space sector, Saqr bin Ghobash Saeed Ghobash, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation explained that the country is forthcoming in developing an agile and transparent system that respects international treaties, protects national interests while achieving its economic and commercial goals.

He said, “The law that was instrumental for the UAE successfully sending of the first Arab Hope probe to Mars in February 2021, the Hope Probe which became a glimmer of hope for the youth in the region and solid piece of evidence that this region is capable enough to rapidly get ahead once a sound vision and appropriate legislative environment have been established.

"It is these real outcomes that have made us feel proud that the UAE today is a magnet for research and researchers and a hub for innovation, innovators and for major international scientific and investment institutions.”

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