Meet the First Arab Woman Astronaut Heading To Outer Space

Nora Al Matrooshi is making historical past as the primary Emirati lady to finish her coaching at NASA. What does that imply? Nora can formally name herself an astronaut — a dream she’s had since she was 5 years outdated.

In honor of Muslim Ladies’s Day on March 27, we teamed up with our mates at NASA to listen to Nora’s inspiring story as she provides which means to the phrase, “Should you can see it, you may be it.” After graduating with a level in mechanical engineering from the United Arab Emirates College and persevering with her coaching in Finland, Nora was chosen by the United Arab Emirates Area Company (UAESA) to hitch NASA’s coaching program in 2021. Her intensive astronaut coaching took two years of devoted effort, which encompassed coaching actions reminiscent of simulated spacewalks in her hijab. On March 5, 2024, Nora turned the primary Arab Muslim lady to finish the rigorous program, qualifying her to take part in NASA area missions.

She is breaking gender limitations in area exploration and empowering Muslim girls worldwide, from her coaching at Johnson Area Heart to future missions to the moon and past. Because of her arduous work, now thousands and thousands of ladies around the globe will be capable of see a mirrored image of themselves within the stars.

MUSLIM GIRL: How has your religion influenced your expertise as an astronaut?

Nora Al Matrooshi:  I believe constructing on what all the Muslim and Arab students have already performed 1000’s of years in the past after they had been finding out the celebrities. That’s one of many issues that impressed me and made me much more desperate to pursue a profession path in area.  

How do you steadiness the cultural significance of being an Emirati lady with the common pursuit of area exploration?  

I don’t assume there’s any conflict between these two issues as a result of ever for the reason that UAE was based, the founders of the UAE knew how vital of a job girls play in society. So, they had been pushing for ladies to be in each single subject — and that mind-set, rising and growing has, I believe, helped the UAE attain the usual. The UAE tradition is constructed on exploring going after what you need and what you consider in. The UAE has deleted the phrase not possible from their dictionary. Loads of our management says that on a regular basis, there’s nothing not possible within the UAE. We’re going to push past what individuals assume we are able to do. We’re going to transcend what anybody else has performed. And we’re going to take whoever we are able to together with us.

How do you’re feeling about breaking these gender limitations in area exploration? I believe that is the primary time I’m seeing somebody that appears like me.  What message would you prefer to convey to aspiring feminine astronauts? 

Astronauts are available in many alternative sizes and shapes. I knew that there have been some Muslim astronauts on the market, some Muslims that had been up in area, however, such as you, I’ve by no means seen one who wears a hijab that goes up into area. I’ve been requested numerous questions like, “Oh, how, how will you turn out to be an astronaut and nonetheless be sporting the hijab?” I don’t assume that it’s a limiting issue in any respect. As a matter of reality, if you happen to see astronauts after they do spacewalks, they’ve one thing that’s overlaying their head or hair. And right here at NASA, whereas doing my coaching, they’ve been very accommodating with what I’m comfy with. I’ll discuss particularly in regards to the spacewalk coaching: the staff that works on the swimsuit reached out to me and requested me what they may do to assist me be capable of full the coaching and nonetheless on the identical time be comfy with what I’m sporting. Not any sort of fabric is allowed into the swimsuit. So, the swimsuit engineer ended up stitching — like, she sewed one at her home utilizing like an outdated t-shirt — a turban that I might put on to cowl my hair, for me to get into the swimsuit. And as soon as I’d gotten into the swimsuit, I put on a comp cap that covers my hair. Clearly, there are not any restrictions, nothing that might restrict my potential to do a spacewalk. If there are any discussions in regards to the materials of it, then it’s only a nonflammable materials.

Your coaching undoubtedly includes collaboration with colleagues from numerous backgrounds. How do you navigate cultural variations and foster teamwork in such an intense and high-stakes atmosphere? 

Some of the vital traits that astronauts have to have is an open thoughts and being staff member. I used to be extraordinarily fortunate to be with 11 different astronauts which might be that. They requested questions after they didn’t perceive something they usually had been very keen on my tradition and faith simply to know what I’m okay with and what they’re okay with. So, they requested and I gave them the solutions that they wanted. I actually recognize them asking as a result of generally I wouldn’t know what was going to occur, and they’d attain out beforehand and be like, “Nora, that is what’s gonna occur, 1 2 3 4… Is there something within the agenda that you simply’re not comfy with?” Then, if I level one thing out, they might ask, “How can we make this comfy for you?” Like I stated, one of many primary important traits so that you can be an astronaut is so that you can be versatile and be teammate, and I believe the 11 individuals who graduated with me right this moment are precisely that. 

Are you able to share a memorable expertise or second out of your coaching at Johnson Area Heart and the influence it had on you? 

Actually, there are numerous memorable experiences for me right here. One among them being the primary time I received right into a T38  and we went supersonic. That’s like quicker than the pace of sound. That was wonderful. After which the second second was within the swimsuit within the impartial buoyancy lab. Trying on the mock-up of the ISS within the pool and seeing, imagining, what it might really appear to be if you happen to had been really in a swimsuit, doing a spacewalk on station. I believe these two moments are probably the most memorable for me. These two moments simply let it sink in that I’ve reached the aim that I’ve been working in the direction of for a really very long time.

With plans for future area missions, together with journeys to the moon and Mars underneath NASA’s Artemis program, what are your long-term objectives and aspirations within the subject of area exploration?

The United Arab Emirates has signed on to be a part of the Artemis program. The UAE, via the Mohammed bin Rashid Area Heart, goes to be constructing the airlock for Gateway, which is one thing just like the ISS. It’s an area station that’s going to be orbiting the moon. I wished to be an astronaut since I used to be 5. The day that I made a decision that I wished to be an astronaut was in our kindergarten class: our trainer took us on a make-believe journey to the moon, and that day I imagined myself really setting foot on the moon. That picture is what pushed me in the direction of pursuing a profession in area and desirous to turn out to be an astronaut. So, I’m very excited for the Artemis missions and my dream mission can be a mission to the floor of the moon.  

Should you might select the soundtrack on your first area mission, what songs can be in your area playlist?

Oh, that’s so such query. Let’s see. I believe it might be a mix of 90’s pop music and a bunch of outdated Arabic songs. I principally hearken to every little thing, however I believe a mix of these two goes to be what I’m going to hearken to.

Throughout your astronaut coaching, what was probably the most sudden or amusing problem you confronted that you simply didn’t anticipate once you first began this system?

I believed that my model of tenting was precise tenting, but it surely turned out to be what the People contemplate to be “glamping.” I’m a really clear particular person. I prefer to be clear, and it’s actually arduous for me to go for a few days with out with the ability to take a bathe. I assume I didn’t understand simply how a lot it might hassle me not with the ability to be clear. The argument may very well be like, oh, you don’t have a bathe on station both, however I do have entry to water and towels and people are, I believe, adequate to be clear. I believe that was one of many issues I didn’t anticipate.

Should you had the chance to share a meal in area with any historic determine or fictional character, who wouldn’t it be and what dish would you convey from Earth to get pleasure from collectively?

I might say Ahmed Bin Majid. He was an Arab explorer that traveled the world and wrote rather a lot about his travels. I really feel like he can be an individual who would love to listen to in regards to the journey and if he was alive presently, he can be an astronaut. What meal wouldn’t it be? A salad. I like salads, so possibly a salad? 

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