Nora Al-Matrooshi, who has dreamed since childhood of reaching the stars, is poised to become the first Arab woman to go into space and hopes that her achievement will shatter every stereotype of a patriarchal society that questions her credentials on a daily basis.
“I need to give my very best, I have to work more than 100 percent and prove that I deserve to be in this position,” the 28-year-old Emirati tells Efe, adding that she fights every day against the idea that an Arab woman does not belong in space.
“I want to end that stereotype,” she says categorically.
Al-Matrooshi’s tone softens when she recalls how she felt as a child who saw going into space as a distant, but not impossible dream.
“I am very excited because I have wanted to be an astronaut for very long,” she says. “I have finally achieved this. But I also feel great commitment and responsibility toward my country and the Arab world because I will be representing them in space.”
The addition of Al-Matrooshi and the man chosen for the other opening will double the size of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) astronaut corps to four. The senior member, Haza Al-Mansoori, made history in September 2020 as the first Emirati to travel to space.
Al-Matrooshi will spend two years in the United States at NASA’s Johnson Space Center for training in flight operations and space research in preparation to take part in low-orbit missions.
“I would like to build alliances with them (her fellow trainee astronauts) so that we can all work and collaborate together. And, with luck, I will go to space someday,” she says.
Al-Matrooshi, a mechanical engineer who worked for the Emirati National Petroleum Construction Company, has been unable to find out why she was selected from among the 4,305 applicants, a third of them women.
The selection process included medical exams and rigorous trials to assess physical fitness, tests of intelligence and technical aptitude, and evaluations of communications skills and ability to work on a team.
The Gulf nation created a space agency in 2014 and in February, the UAE became the first Arab nation and the fifth in the world to successfully place a probe in orbit around Mars. EFE