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“Nasa’s Emirati Graduates: The Next Frontier for UAE’s Space Program”

"Nasa's Emirati Graduates: The Next Frontier for UAE's Space Program"

In a significant milestone for the UAE’s burgeoning space ambitions, two Emiratis, Nora Al Matrooshi and Mohammed Al Mulla, are set to graduate from their astronaut training program at Nasa. The ceremony, scheduled for Tuesday, marks the culmination of two years of intensive preparation for space missions.

Nora Al Matrooshi, a 31-year-old mechanical engineer, and Mohammed Al Mulla, a 36-year-old former Dubai Police helicopter pilot, are poised to become eligible for space missions upon receiving their silver astronaut pins during the celebration at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas.

Their graduation not only underscores the UAE’s commitment to space exploration but also follows the footsteps of Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi, who made history with their space missions. Al Mansouri, the first Emirati in space, and Al Neyadi, now Minister of Youth, completed a groundbreaking six-month mission aboard the International Space Station last year.

What Lies Ahead After Graduation? As Nora Al Matrooshi and Mohammed Al Mulla prepare to embark on their spacefaring journey, the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) is strategizing their roles within the UAE’s astronaut corps. Salem Al Marri, director general of MBRSC, outlined plans for the astronauts, emphasizing their involvement in mission control operations and outreach activities in schools across Houston and the UAE.

Al Marri elaborated, stating that the astronauts would follow a rotation system between Houston and Dubai, engaging in tasks such as Capcom duties and contributing to projects like the Gateway lunar-orbiting station. Although immediate space missions may not be on the horizon, the astronauts will undergo continuous training and remain integral to the UAE’s space endeavors.

The Path to Space Missions While the graduation marks a significant milestone, the journey towards space missions involves further training and preparation. Upon selection for a mission, astronauts undergo rigorous training for up to 18 months, encompassing various aspects of spaceflight and mission-specific tasks. Despite the anticipation, the majority of an astronaut’s career is spent on Earth, engaging in training, research, and public outreach.

As for the timing of the UAE’s next space mission, uncertainties loom. With the International Space Station expected to retire by the decade’s end, the UAE may explore alternative opportunities, including commercial space stations and lunar missions. The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre aims to secure missions every three to five years, reflecting the country’s commitment to space exploration.

The Graduation Ceremony and Beyond The upcoming graduation ceremony of Nora Al Matrooshi and Mohammed Al Mulla, streamed live on Nasa’s website, symbolizes the UAE’s progress in space exploration. Alongside ten US astronauts, the Emirati graduates will be awarded their silver astronaut pins, signifying their readiness for future space missions.

Since 1963, Nasa has awarded lapel pins to astronauts upon completing their training, with silver pins denoting readiness for spaceflight. As Al Matrooshi and Al Mulla prepare to address the audience at the ceremony, their achievement underscores the UAE’s ambition to become a significant player in the global space community.

In conclusion, the graduation of Nora Al Matrooshi and Mohammed Al Mulla represents a significant stride for the UAE’s space program, signaling a promising future in space exploration and technology. As the nation looks towards the stars, these Emirati astronauts embody the spirit of innovation and determination, poised to leave their mark on the cosmos.

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