Meet the ‘flies’: Nasa’s 2023 astronaut class patch features US and UAE flag

The fly-shaped patch has an astronaut reaching for the Moon, with eyes on Mars

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Nasa’s 2023 astronaut class patch, featuring a US and UAE flag, has been released.

The patch represents the US space agency's latest class of astronaut recruits, including 10 Americans and two Emiratis.

Nora Al Matrooshi, the first female astronaut from the UAE, and Mohammed Al Mulla began their training with their American colleagues in January at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas.

The fly-shaped patch shows an astronaut reaching for the Moon, with eyes on Mars.

The design symbolises Nasa’s goal of a human presence on the Moon and from there to Mars as part of the Artemis programme.

Anil Menon, one of the American astronauts, shared the astronaut class photos and patch on Twitter on Saturday.

“The fly shape represents our class ‘the flies’,” he said.

“Twelve stars represent the candidates of class 23 and the UAE and US flags are both displayed.

“And, of course, the astronaut pose represents our faith in Nasa’s return to the moon while keeping an eye on Mars.”

Ms Al Matrooshi, 29, is a mechanical engineer, and Mr Al Mulla, 34, served as a helicopter pilot for Dubai Police for several years.

They joined the UAE’s astronaut corps — which now has four members — in 2021 and started their training at Nasa shortly after.

The UAE also has plans to explore the Moon and eventually send astronauts there one day.

As part of the country’s long-term Moon exploration programme, the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre is launching the Rashid rover to the lunar surface next month.

One of the science experiments will be to study how materials attached underneath’s the rover’s wheels react to lunar dust.

The findings could help space agencies and private companies develop astronaut suits that prevent lunar dust from sticking.

The UAE Space Agency and Nasa held a meeting last year to discuss the Artemis programme, but no update has been given since on whether the Emirates will be involved in it.

However, the UAE is a signatory of the Artemis Accords, a Nasa-led international agreement that outlines responsible space exploration, especially of the Moon.

The UAE’s first two Emirati astronauts, Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi, graduated from Nasa’s basic astronaut training programme this year.

Dr Al Neyadi is preparing to go on a six-month mission to the International Space Station next spring on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Updated: October 30, 2022, 9:14 PM