UAE selects first Arab woman for astronaut training

Emirati national Nora al-Matrooshi, a 27-year-old mechanical engineer, will be joining Nasa's 2021 astronaut candidate class in the US. PHOTO: REUTERS
Emirati national Nora al-Matrooshi, a 27-year-old mechanical engineer, will be joining Nasa's 2021 astronaut candidate class in the US. PHOTO: REUTERS

DUBAI • The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has selected the first Arab woman to train as an astronaut, as the Gulf country rapidly expands into the space sector to diversify its economy.

Emirati national Nora al-Matrooshi, a 27-year-old mechanical engineering graduate working at Abu Dhabi's National Petroleum Construction Company, will join Nasa's 2021 astronaut candidate class in the United States.

The UAE is using its space programme to develop its scientific and technological capabilities and reduce its reliance on oil.

In February, a UAE space probe reached the orbit of Mars, the Arab world's first interplanetary expedition. The UAE plans to launch a Moon rover by 2024 and has set its sights on a Mars settlement by 2117.

Ms Matrooshi will be joined by fellow Emirati Mohammed al-Mulla, making a total of four people under the country's astronaut programme. The group includes Mr Hazza al-Mansouri, who became the first Emirati in space in 2019 when he flew to the International Space Station.

Dubai's Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre said Ms Matrooshi was one of 4,300 applicants for the programme, and she was assessed on her scientific abilities, education and practical experience, as well as physical, psychological and medical assessments.

The UAE launched its national space programme in 2017 to develop local expertise. With a population of 9.4 million, most of whom are foreign workers, the Gulf state lacks the scientific and industrial base of the big space-faring nations.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2021, with the headline 'UAE selects first Arab woman for astronaut training'. Subscribe