Camp sparks space ambitions among teen Emirati students

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Camp sparks space ambitions among teen Emirati students
Donald Thomas teaching the students

Dubai - 20 handpicked students will learn how to build and launch their own rockets

By Sarwat Nasir

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Published: Sun 17 Dec 2017, 8:27 PM

Last updated: Sun 17 Dec 2017, 10:34 PM

"There is no doubt that the UAE will establish a colony on Mars and send astronauts for deeper space exploration." These are the words of a former Nasa astronaut who spent 44 days in space, and also believes the country can achieve its mission of establishing a mini-city on the Red Planet by 2117.
Astronaut Donald Thomas is currently visiting Dubai, where he will be teaching gifted Emirati students at an exclusive space camp, called 'Go for Orbit! Mars'. He has visited Dubai several times over the years, often touring schools and science exhibitions.
A total of 20 gifted students from the Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Giftedness and Creativity, were chosen to be part of the two-week camp, where they will build and launch their own rockets, learn about space travel and design a Mars base and work directly with Thomas.
The camp has been organised by the centre, in support with the US Space and Rocket Centre and Dubai-based Compass International, for the students.
The talented students that are taking part in the camp are equally "excited" about learning from an astronaut who has spent time in outer space.
Aysha Abdulla, 14, said that it is a "very good opportunity" for her and all of the other students to learn from Thomas.
"I have a very shallow understanding of what space is but I've always wanted to know more. I think such an experience with the centre will help me learn a lot of things, especially because there's an astronaut that will help me understand," she said. "It amazes me that someone could stay in space for that long. It's a really hard process and it will be amazing learning from a person who actually accomplished this."
Another student, Omar Al Ali, 15, said: "I'm very excited about being a part of the camp and building the rockets. I've never done it before, so I'm looking forward to it. We have an experienced person teaching us about space and there's no better teacher to tell you about space than someone who's actually been there."
Student Maryam Saeed, 15, said the camp will allow her to learn and explore more about space. She looks forward to building and launching her own rocket.
Thomas told Khaleej Times: "I'm here for the first two days and the message I wanted to start with the students is to never give up on your dream and to work hard everyday in school.
"I will share how I wanted to be an astronaut since I was a young boy, but it took me until age 39 to make it to space. I got turned down three times when I applied to be an astronaut. Failure is common, it's okay, but you have to keep working on it and also work hard. I'm also sharing how it is up there in space - how we eat and sleep, how we exercise, how we use the toilet - they've had questions about that already."
Thomas added that he'll also be shedding light on some of the new rockets Nasa and some commercial companies are building.

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