Mohammed Al Mulla has been flying high as a helicopter pilot for years, but now he is aiming to reach the stars as the UAE’s newest trainee astronaut.
His 15-year career as a pilot for Dubai Police has made him familiar with the dangers of flying, and he believes his upcoming training at Nasa will make him “very ready” for space missions.
Born in Dubai, Mr Al Mulla, 33, was the force's youngest pilot and received his commercial pilot’s licence when he was 19. He is currently the head of the training department of the Air Wing Centre at Dubai Police and has also received the Bravery Medal from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.
He wants to inspire his two sons, aged 1 and 4, who look up to him as a hero. He said his family are his biggest supporters and he is pushing himself to succeed for them.
He has a bachelor’s degree in law and economics, and an executive master of public administration.
He hopes to be part of the first Emirati space team to explore the Moon and hopes to train future astronauts.
Mr Al Mulla spoke to The National on Monday about his journey so far and what is still to come.
Q. What does it mean for you to be an astronaut, and what do you hope to accomplish in your new career?
A. First of all, I’m very proud to be selected in the second batch of the astronaut programme. It meant a lot that they chose me to represent my country in the space sector. The responsibilities are big – in the past two years, the achievements of this country have been huge. It’s my ambition to represent the UAE on future missions, hopefully, to discover the Moon and be part of the first Arab country that goes to the Moon in the future.
Q. Do you think it’s possible for a UAE astronaut to reach the Moon within the decade?
A. The growth of the UAE space sector has been very fast and it has been gaining experience from others. We have big projects, like the Rashid rover, that will be sent to the Moon. I think, within a short time, the UAE will have a big part in discoveries on the Moon.
Q. What is your family’s reaction been and do you hope to inspire your two young sons?
A. I'm very thankful for them. They support me from the beginning till the end, and they will keep supporting till the end. They are very proud of me and I’m proud to have them in my life. I’m pushing myself to the next level for them. They support me in every direction. My kids, my parents, my brothers and my sisters – all my family are supportive.
Q. What is the scariest or proudest moment for you as a helicopter pilot and how do you think that experience and skills will help you during your space training and mission?
A. In the past 15 years as a helicopter pilot, I’ve been through a lot of emergencies. This is not something new to me – emergencies and procedures. I have the experience in terms of fear. I also have the experience regarding fear control, plus emergencies. Hopefully, after training I’ll be very good.