Two Emirati astronauts to join Nasa's new batch to train for future space missions

Mohammad Al Mulla and Nora Al Matrooshi to train alongside other astronauts at Johnson Space Center in Houston


Nandini Sircar

Published: Mon 6 Dec 2021, 11:54 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Dec 2021, 11:57 PM

Emirati astronauts Mohammad Al Mulla and Nora Al Matrooshi join the next ASCAN class (Astronaut Candidate Selection) and will be training alongside ‘2021 NASA Astronaut Candidate Class’.

They were introduced to the public from Ellington Field near Nasa's Johnson Space Center in Houston during the introduction ceremony on Monday.

Welcoming the new batch that will commence its training in January 2022, Nasa Administrator Bill Nelson said, “It’s my honour to introduce a couple of more explorers. NASA is venturing further out into the solar system but America is not going alone. We are partnering with space agencies from around the world. Today, we are joined by two United Arab Emirates crew members, Nora Al Matrooshi and Mohammad Al Mulla. Over the next two years they will train with this class of candidates and they will strengthen the bond between our two nations. Thank you Nora and Mohammed.”

The training is part of the Reimbursable Space Act Agreement Nasa signed with the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) last year.

Under this cooperation, the UAE has purchased access to NASA’s facility and the training programme.

Following graduation, which requires about two years of training, these astronauts could be eligible for a variety of flight assignments including missions on and around the Moon under Artemis, becoming astronauts of the ‘Artemis Generation’ and the planned lunar Gateway space station.

Venessa Wyche, Director, NASA’s Johnson Space Center said, “These Nasa astronauts will plan, train and fly missions to the International Space Stations (ISS) and to the Moon under Artemis and eventually on to Mars. After today, Johnson will be the new home of the new individuals we introduce to you.”

After evaluating more than 12,000 applications, Nasa introduced its 2021 astronaut candidates.

The astronauts will be launched from the American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies.

Astronaut candidates to report to Nasa Johnson in January

The astronaut candidates will report to Nasa Johnson in January to begin their training in spacecraft systems, spacewalking skills, teamwork and other necessary skills.

These astronauts will fly on Nasa's Orion spacecraft and Deep Space Launch system that will have their first uncrewed Moon mission after February 2022.

It’s said the first Artemis crewed mission (in lunar orbit) is expected in 2024 and the first landing mission in 2025.

Background of two UAE astronauts

In April this year, the UAE announced the name of the first woman astronaut Nora Al Matrooshi along with her male colleague Mohammed Al Mulla – who were the latest to be recruited to the UAE’s growing astronaut corps.

The first female Arab astronaut, Al Matrooshi, 28, is a mechanical engineer from the UAE University. She always had a passion for space from a young age. Excelling in engineering and mathematics, she was also selected for the UAE Youth Ambassadors Programme in South Korea.

Al Matrooshi aspires to develop the space sector in the UAE further and ultimately land on the Moon onboard an Emirati spacecraft.

Al Mulla, 34, has been the youngest pilot in Dubai police to have obtained a commercial pilot's license. He is also a holder of a flight instructor license from the Australian Civil Aviation Authority. Al Mulla has a bachelor’s degree in law and economics. He obtained an Executive Master of Public Administration from the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government.

In-house training

The astronauts in-house training comprised swimming, scuba diving, survival exercise, stamina improvement, aircraft flying classes and Russian language lessons.

In Houston, the duo will be trained to manage various missions on the ISS, including simulated spacewalks and long-duration stays, along with training on major systems, robotics, extravehicular activity. T-38 jet courses, water and land survival, Russian language skills and theoretical training.

Al Mulla hopes to be among the first Emirati space team to explore the Moon.

More news from