UAE's first female astronaut to graduate from Nasa training programme on March 5

Nora Al Matrooshi will become eligible for missions to the International Space Station and Lunar Gateway

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The UAE's first female astronaut will graduate from a Nasa training programme in Houston, Texas on March 5, Nasa confirmed on Wednesday.

Emirati mechanical engineer Nora Al Matrooshi, her colleague Mohammed Al Mulla, a former Dubai Police helicopter pilot, and 11 American astronaut candidates will graduate as part of the Nasa astronaut class of 2023.

They will then become eligible for space missions, including to the International Space Station, as well any other future US-led missions, such as trips to the Moon planned under Nasa's Artemis programme.

Since starting their training in 2021 at the Johnson Space Centre, the candidates have undergone a series of training courses, including land survival, flight training, spacesuit and spacewalks and geology field training.

"I first started dreaming of becoming an astronaut when my teacher in kindergarten asked us to build a tent and pretend it was a spacecraft that was taking us to the Moon. Since then I’ve become extremely passionate about becoming an astronaut,” Ms Al Matrooshi, 30, said at an earlier media briefing.

“I’ve been working in the oil and gas field for several years, but my dream of becoming an astronaut never went away. This is a life-changing opportunity.

“The dream I’ve had since a child has come true. Now, I’ve started dreaming bigger.”

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

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

The graduation ceremony will be held at Johnson Space Centre at 10.30am EST (7.30pm UAE time) on Tuesday, March 5.

Nasa’s 2023 astronaut class patch features a US and UAE flag. The patch is shaped like a fly, and features an astronaut reaching for the Moon, with Mars pictured in the distance.

The design symbolises the space agency's goal of a human presence on the Moon and, later, travel to Mars as part of the Artemis programme.

UAE's first two astronauts – Sultan Al Neyadi, who returned from a six-month stint on the ISS in September, and Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati in space – completed the Nasa training programme in 2022.

All Emirati astronauts will soon qualify for missions to the Lunar Gateway, as the UAE has secured a spot for one of its astronauts on the Moon-orbiting station.

The Emirates will supply an airlock for the Gateway in exchange for access to the station.

It is not yet decided which Emirati astronaut will be the first to go on a mission to the Gateway.

"We have four astronauts and all of them will be trained," Salem Al Marri, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, told The National this month.

"But this is not something that we can decide at this stage and as we get closer, and we start getting into the operational elements, then we get into mission selection."

Updated: March 13, 2024, 1:06 PM