Mechanical engineer Nora Al Matrooshi is the first Arab woman to train as an astronaut. Following the successful launch of the UAE’s Hope probe mission earlier this year, Al Matrooshi, alongside Mohammed Al Mulla, was chosen from more than 4,000 candidates to join the second batch of the UAE Astronaut Programme and receive training for future exploration missions.
The Expo News Service (ENS) team caught up with the 28-year-old Emirati at Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC) during Expo 2020 Dubai’s Space Week (17-23 October), in association with Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and the UAE Space Agency – one of 10 Theme Weeks that will take place throughout Expo, as part of the Programme for People and Planet.
You have been chosen to be the first Arab female astronaut. How important is this to you, the UAE and all women?
It is a great responsibility to be chosen as the first Arab female astronaut. The field of space exploration is not limited to a gender or a country: it is open to everyone. After seeing me, I want women in our Arab world to be encouraged to enter this sector.
Did Hazza Al Mansouri give you any advice? How did his mission inspire you?
Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi are from the first batch of Emirati astronauts and, as they have been through the entire experience, we benefit from their experience. They advised strengthening the hand muscles through continuous exercise because we depend on the movement of our hands a lot in space.
Have you started your training phase? How are things going so far?
With my colleague Mohammed Al Mulla, we started training at MBRSC, and we also started learning Russian. We have also received media training and will start flight training soon so we are better prepared when the training with NASA begins.
What are your hopes for your first assignment?
My first mission has yet to be decided. I hope my first mission will be to the moon, so I can say I’ve made one footstep on the moon.
What advice would you give girls who want to work in the space sector?
My advice is to strive to achieve your goals. The opportunities to achieve them exist, and even if the opportunities do not exist, we can create them.
Did you want to be an astronaut when you were a child?
I always dreamt of becoming an astronaut, ever since a teacher transformed the classroom into the surface of the moon, inspiring us with information about the Earth and the planets in our solar system.
In your opinion, what will Expo 2020 Dubai achieve for the UAE and humanity?
Expo 2020 Dubai is providing the opportunity for countries to meet in one place, and for the best minds to gather in one place to discuss ideas, innovate and develop ideas. By bringing together views from so many different countries, Expo is offering a platform for humanity to work with each other and build a better future for today and for future generations.