Nasa's Emirati graduates: What we know about their training and future space trips

Nora Al Matrooshi and Mohammed Al Mulla will become eligible for space missions after their graduation on Tuesday

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Two Emiratis will graduate in a Nasa ceremony on Tuesday, after completing two years of astronaut training.

Nora Al Matrooshi, 31, a mechanical engineer, and Mohammed Al Mulla, 36, a former Dubai Police helicopter pilot, will become eligible for space missions after they receive a silver astronaut pin in a celebration at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas.

The duo follow in the footsteps of Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati in space, and Sultan Al Neyadi, now Minister of Youth, who completed a six-month mission on board the International Space Station last year.

What happens after graduation?

The graduation of Ms Al Matrooshi and Mr Al Mulla will help boost the UAE's space programme, as the nation's astronaut corps gains two more members.

But it could be some time until the new recruits can travel to space, as the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) tries to arrange new missions.

Salem Al Marri, director general of MBRSC, said their four astronauts would be given assignments in Houston and the UAE, where they will work in mission control and carry out outreach activities in schools.

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

"When you are not mission-assigned, your jobs are something like Capcom [mission control officer who communicates with astronauts in space], working with different partners and on something like the Gateway [a lunar-orbiting station], which our astronauts will be an integral part of.

"So, that's what their jobs will be for the foreseeable future."

Once an astronaut is selected for a mission, they enter a training period of up to 18 months.

The majority of an astronaut's career is spent on Earth in various roles involving training, mission control, research and public outreach.

Nasa, for example, has 39 Americans active in its astronaut corps, seven of whom have yet to fly to space.

When will the UAE's next space mission be?

Historic scenes unfolded when Dr Al Neyadi left Earth on a SpaceX rocket about this time last year.

He was the first Arab to carry out an extended mission and the first to carry out a spacewalk.

His trip was made possible because MBRSC secured a deal with Axiom Space, a Houston-based space infrastructure company that helps arrange trips to orbit.

Meet the Arab world's first female astronaut from the UAE

Meet the Arab world's first female astronaut from the UAE

Maj Al Mansouri's eight-day trip to the floating laboratory in 2019 was made possible by Russian collaboration.

Mr Al Marri said the space centre would try to secure a mission every three to five years, which means it could be a while before the next Emirati blasts off.

And with the International Space Station nearing retirement at the end of this decade, the Emirati astronauts could be training for different missions in future.

There are international plans to launch commercial space stations in orbit, on which astronauts can live and work.

The UAE is also planning to send astronauts to the Moon's orbit and is contributing to the Gateway by developing an airlock, an airtight room used to enter and exit a space station.

Other countries to have struck deals with Axiom Space include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Hungary and the UK.

How to watch the UAE's latest astronauts graduate

Ms Al Matrooshi and Mr Al Mulla's graduation ceremony will be streamed live on Nasa's website at 7.30pm UAE time.

They will graduate alongside 10 US astronauts, who will also receive their silver astronaut pin.

Nasa has been awarding lapel pins since 1963 to astronauts who complete basic training.

Silver ones are given to those who have completed their training but have yet to fly to space.

Gold ones are awarded to astronauts who have already gone to space.

The Emirati astronauts are expected to give speeches at the graduation ceremony.

Updated: March 13, 2024, 1:08 PM