April 19, 2024
Space UAE

NASA to honour 12 graduating astronaut candidates

Recognition includes 2 UAE astronaut aspirants

NASA will pay tribute to the latest (2021) Artemis astronaut candidates corps at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, on March 5, 2024.

The ceremony marks the culmination of over two years of rigorous basic training, transforming the candidates into eligible space farers with the prospect of embarking on missions ranging from the International Space Station to lunar expeditions and, eventually, voyages to Mars.

All the graduating astronaut candidates have undergone comprehensive training in spacewalking, robotics, space station systems, T-38 jet proficiency, and the Russian language.

The graduation ceremony will include awarding astronaut pins, symbolising their completion of basic training and eligibility for future space missions.

The 2021 class comprises 10 NASA candidates, including two from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in the UAE. The latter have undergone joint training with their NASA counterparts throughout the NASA astronaut training programme.

NASA’s graduating astronauts:

  1. Nichole Ayers (Major, US Air Force): A Colorado native, Ayers is a US Air Force Academy graduate with combat experience in the T-38 and F-22 Raptor fighter jets. Notably, in 2019, she led the first-ever all-woman formation of the F-22 in combat.
  2. Marcos Berríos (Major, US Air Force): Raised in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, Berríos is an aerospace engineer and combat search and rescue helicopter pilot with extensive experience in various aircraft.
  3. Chris (Christina) Birch: Hailing from Gilbert, Arizona, Birch is a former bioengineering professor and track cyclist on the US National Team.
  4. Deniz Burnham: A native of Wasilla, Alaska, Burnham is a licensed private pilot and an experienced leader in the energy industry, with a background in managing drilling projects on oil rigs.
  5. Luke Delaney (Major, Retired, US Marine Corps): Delaney, originally from Debary, Florida, is a naval aviator and test pilot with over 3,900 flight hours on 48 aircraft models.
  6. Andre Douglas: A Virginia native, Douglas is a naval architect with a diverse background in maritime robotics, planetary defence, and space exploration missions for NASA.
  7. Jack Hathaway (Commander, US Navy): A Connecticut native, Hathaway is a naval aviator with over 2,500 flight hours in 30 aircraft types, including 39 combat missions.
  8. Anil Menon (Lieutenant Colonel, US Air Force): Born and raised in Minneapolis, Menon is an emergency medicine physician and was SpaceX’s first flight surgeon.
  9. Christopher Williams: From Potomac, Maryland, Williams is a board-certified medical physicist and former lead physicist for an MRI-guided adaptive radiation therapy program.
  10. Jessica Wittner (Lieutenant Commander, US Navy): A Californian, Wittner is a naval aviator and test pilot with a distinguished career, including operational flying of F/A-18 fighter jets.
(L-R) UAE astronaut candidates Mohammad Al Mulla and Nora Al Matrooshi. Image: NASA

UAE’s astronaut graduates:

  1. Nora Al Matrooshi: Born in Sharjah, Al Matrooshi is the first Emirati and Arab woman astronaut, holding a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
  2. Mohammed Al Mulla: A Dubai native, Al Mulla is recognised as the youngest pilot in Dubai Police, obtaining his commercial pilot’s license at 19 and later becoming the youngest trainer at 28.

As part of NASA’s Artemis campaign, the agency continues its commitment to scientific exploration on the Moon. It plans to land the first woman, the first person of colour, and its first international partner astronaut on the lunar surface.

Additionally, preparations for human expeditions to Mars are underway, marking a significant stride towards the future of space exploration for the benefit of humanity.

Featured image: NASA’s astronaut candidates pictured with senior NASA officials. Image: NASA

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto is an award-winning journalist with wide-ranging Middle East and Asia experience in the tech, aerospace, defence, luxury watchmaking, business, automotive, and fashion verticals. He is passionate about conserving endangered native wildlife globally. Arnold enjoys 4x4 off-roading, camping and exploring global destinations off the beaten track.
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