New UAE astronauts to begin NASA 2-year training program in Houston

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The two new astronauts from the United Arab Emirates are heading to Houston next week for a two-year training program.

Mohammed Al Mulla, a former Dubai Police helicopter pilot, and Nora Al Matrooshi, a mechanical engineer, will begin their training in January at the Johnson Space Center.

They will be trained alongside the new class of NASA astronaut candidates, who will become eligible for space missions upon graduation, including to the International Space Station and future missions to the Moon under the Artemis program.

“They go to Houston the first week of December. Nora and Mohammed to join NASA’s next ASCAN [Astronaut Candidate Selection] class, ”said Salem Al Marri, head of the UAE astronaut program at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center. The National.

Ms. Al Matrooshi and Mr. Al Mulla will learn space station systems, the Russian language, how to conduct spacewalks, robotics, leadership training and piloting T-38 supersonic jets.

Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi, the UAE’s first two astronauts, have already completed a year of training and will return to the space center at the end of December to continue the program.

“I feel prepared and excited because I like to think of myself as a very adventurous person. I like being put in situations that I’m not used to. So I’m going to be pushed out of my comfort zone. I feel like it’s very exciting, ”said Ms. Al Matrooshi, who has been selected to be the first female Arab astronaut. The National in a previous interview.

The training of the four UAE astronauts was made possible thanks to a reimbursable space law agreement signed by NASA with the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in 2020, which means the UAE bought the access NASA facilities and training program.

Once Emirati astronauts graduate, they would also become eligible for long-duration space missions to the space station.

As for missions to the Moon, the United Arab Emirates are in discussions with NASA to get involved in the Artemis program, which aims to build a lasting human presence on the lunar surface.

The United Arab Emirates is one of 13 countries that have signed the Artemis Accords, which define responsible and peaceful exploration of the Moon, and pave the way for the integration of these countries into future lunar missions.

At the International Astronautical Congress held in Dubai last month, UAE space officials had meetings with NASA deputy administrator Pamela Melroy, where Artemis was discussed.

“International cooperation on Artemis aims not only to strengthen our space exploration from a technological point of view, but also to strengthen peaceful relations between nations,” Melroy said at the conference.

In 2018, an agreement between the United Arab Emirates Space Agency and NASA was signed to identify areas of interest in human spaceflight and the use of the Space Station and Gateway – a lunar orbiting station that the US space agency plans to build under Artemis.

An increasing number of space agencies are focusing on moon exploration missions as the International Space Station reaches the end of its lifespan.

It has been operational for 20 years, but the floating science lab is expected to retire later this decade due to its aging infrastructure and increasing maintenance costs.

“Obviously, exploring the Moon and Mars are things we watch and always talk about,” Al Marri said.

“So a next natural progression would be to look at what we can do towards the Moon.”

Private companies are looking to commercialize low earth orbit with their own space stations that astronauts and tourists can access.

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Updated: November 21, 2021, 12:23

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