UAE's Nora Al Matrooshi to graduate from Nasa's astronaut training programme next year

Ms Matrooshi is the first Emirati female astronaut

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The first female Emirati trainee astronaut is set to graduate from a Nasa programme early next year.

It means she'll become eligible to join US-led missions to space.

Nora Al Matrooshi and her colleague Mohammed Al Mulla have been training at Nasa's Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, since January last year.

They are the UAE's latest trainee astronauts who will follow in the footsteps of Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati in space, and Sultan Al Neyadi, who is in the middle of the Arab world's longest space mission aboard the International Space Station.

"As part of Nasa's 2021 astronaut candidate class training programme, Emirati astronauts Nora Al Mastrooshi and Mohammed Al Mulla recently completed a series of rigorous training exercises in the USA," a Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre representative said on Friday.

"They are set to graduate in early 2024 as flight-eligible astronauts."

Maj Al Mansouri and Dr Al Neyadi graduated from the programme last year.

Ms Matrooshi was the first Arab woman to be selected for an astronaut corps in 2020, but Saudi Arabia's Rayyanah Barnawi became the first Arab woman to go on a space mission when she launched on an eight-day trip to the ISS last month.

Surviving in the wilderness

A video released by Nasa on Thursday shows mechanical engineer Ms Al Matrooshi and former Dubai Police helicopter pilot Mr Al Mulla during their training sessions.

They have carried out a survival training course in a remote forest at the US Army Aviation Centre of Excellence in Fort Rucker, Alabama, where they learned how to build fires, make shelters and gather food and water, alongside their Nasa colleagues.

Maj Al Mansouri and Dr Al Neyadi completed survival training in Russia in 2018.

They spent a year at the Gagarin Astronaut Training Centre in Moscow, which included days in the wilderness in freezing temperatures.

Ms Al Matrooshi and Mr Al Mulla also explored the V20 Thermal Vacuum Chamber at the Marshall Space Flight Centre in Alabama, which is currently being used to simulate lunar environments.

At Nasa's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, they learned how to wear a spacewalking suit, which weighs about 130kg.

The two trainee astronauts will also learn how to fly T-38 supersonic jets and about the systems of the space station.

Future space missions

It is not clear if any space mission has been secured yet for the astronauts after they graduate.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, which oversees the country's astronaut programme, said they would send astronauts to space every three to five years.

Maj Al Mansouri went on an eight-day mission to the ISS in 2019 and Dr Al Neyadi arrived at the station on March 3 for a six-month stay.

But, as space agencies look to retire the ISS by the end of this decade, Emirati astronauts will probably have a future on private space stations and flights to the Moon under Nasa's Artemis programme, if the UAE secures a deal with the US.

Companies like Blue Origin and Axiom Space have plans to build stations in low-Earth orbit, with paying customers welcome aboard.

While government-run agencies like Nasa have set their sights on crewed missions to the Moon and beyond.

Updated: June 16, 2023, 11:58 AM