While speaking in Dubai Expo 2020, Nora Al Matrooshi who is UAEs first female astronaut encouraged young people to “never give up.” She said this revealing how she was rejected by the nation’s space programme in 2018.
The 28-year-old shared her thoughts on the first day of the Space Week at the Dubai Expo 2020 along with American and Japanese astronauts.
Nora, who completed her mechanical engineering, became part of the nation’s astronaut corps earlier this year, along with Dubai Police helicopter pilot Mohammed Al Mulla.
According to reports Nora said, “I actually did apply to the first batch, but unfortunately I didn’t make it. The second batch was my second chance. It was my opportunity to achieve the dream that I wanted since I was a child.”
“I’m sure you know how powerful the imagination of a child is and that power inspired me to want to become an astronaut. As I grew up, that dream started to build and I started to think how I could do it.
“I did some research and what I needed to do. At that time in the UAE, there was no astronaut programme, but children tend not to look at boundaries, they believe all is achievable.
“So, on December 6, 2019, it was announced that the UAE was looking for the second batch of astronauts. Nora and Mohammed will begin their training in Houston, and will be learning Russian, they will be also given training to perform spacewalks and will be mastering the systems of the space station.
Nora also revealed some of the challenges she faced during the selection process.
“First, there were the online interviews. I think I got a bit unlucky on that part because the cameras were not working for the people interviewing me, so it was a bit awkward talking to a blank screen,” she said.
The second part involved general and advanced medical tests, where the candidates underwent colour blindness examinations and scans where Nora said she could hear blood pumping through her jugular vein. That was really interesting and very weird to hear at the same time. The final interviews were her “favourite part” because she met Emirati and Nasa astronauts. ” she said.
She said she was unaware that Maj Al Mansouri, Dr Al Neyadi, and US astronauts Jessica Meir and Anne McClain would interview her.
“I was starstruck at that point because I really wanted to become like the astronauts in front of me. I never thought that I’d actually get to meet them that soon. I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the interview. After the interviews and fitness examinations, the two newest members of the UAE’s astronaut corps were finally selected. I was ecstatic. This was a dream I had since I was 5 or 6-years-old. The team grew from two to four and all of us came from different backgrounds and all of us had different journeys, but we all managed to reach this point in our careers.” ” Nora added.
Nora and Mohammed will be completing their 30-month training at Nasa, which would qualify them for future missions. If selected, the astronaut would have to complete mission-specific training, which could stretch up to a year.