The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has expanded its astronaut trainee program this week with the announcement of two new candidates — Nora AlMatrooshi, a mechanical engineer, and Mohammad AlMulla, a pilot with the Dubai Police. The additions are significant for two reasons: not only do they double the number of astronauts the UAE currently has, AlMatrooshi has also become the first woman candidate in the program.
AlMatrooshi and AlMulla will join Hazza AlMansouri and Sultan AlNeyadi as the first four astronauts in the UAE’s burgeoning fleet. From here, they’ll join NASA’s established space training program to prepare for upcoming missions by learning robotics and spacewalking skills. In future, the hope is they’ll help pilot a mission to the Moon.
“With the support of our wise leadership, Emirati youth continue to make great strides and push their ambition to new limits,” Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai commented on Twitter. “Our young talents continue to set a model example to the world with their determination.”
AlMatrooshi also took to social media to share the excitement of her selection for the program, which represents a joint effort between the UAE and the United States.
“The nation gave me unforgettable moments today,” AlMatrooshi wrote on Twitter. “I aim to work hard to script historical moments and achievements that will be etched forever in the memory of our people.”
The MBR Space Centre took the opportunity to highlight AlMatrooshi’s experience as an engineer at the UAE National Petroleum Construction Company, and her status as a woman working in an essential STEM field, as an important part of her selection. With years-long experience in mathematics and engineering, as well as a history of representing the UAE in the United Nations, she was selected for her expertise and skill.
Both candidates overcame a field of over 4,300 applicants to land a place in the program, with interviews taking place over Zoom and in person.
“The team at MBRSC has worked tirelessly after receiving applications to evaluate them according to specific criteria and standards, and then conducted successive evaluations to ensure the selection of the best candidates,” Salem AlMarri, head of the astronaut program at MBRSC said in a press release.
The vigorous process is a testament to the skillset of both candidates.
The hope for AlMatrooshi and AlMulla is they will help prepare the United Arab Emirates for future excursions into space as the country continues to explore space science and technology. For young people across the UAE, it’s likely AlMatrooshi will also represent far more than this — a chance for young women to pursue their dreams on a global stage.