Noura al Matroushi and her male counterpart Mohammed al Mulla will undergo training at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Emirati national Nora al Matroushi is seen in this undated picture.
Emirati national Nora al Matroushi is seen in this undated picture. ()

The United Arab Emirates has selected the first Arab woman to train as an astronaut, as the Gulf country rapidly expands into the space sector to diversify its economy.

Emirati national Nora al Matrooshi, a 27-year-old mechanical engineering graduate currently working at Abu Dhabi's National Petroleum Construction Company, will join NASA's 2021 Astronaut Candidate Class in the United States.

The UAE is using its space programme to develop its scientific and technological capabilities and reduce its reliance on oil.

In February a UAE probe reached the orbit of the planet Mars, the Arab world's first interplanetary expedition.

The UAE has plans to launch a moon rover by 2024 and even a vision for a Mars settlement by 2117.

READ MORE: United Arab Emirates: Amal functioning after launch to Mars

Matrooshi will be joined by another Emirati, Mohammed al Mulla, making a total of four people under the UAE Astronaut Programme. They include Hazza al Mansouri who became the first Emirati in space in 2019 when he flew to the International Space Station.

Nora was one of 4,300 applicants assessed on scientific abilities, education and practical experience, and then on physical, psychological and medical assessments, Dubai's Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) said.

Breaking boundaries

Anousheh Raissyan, an Iranian-American telecommunications entrepreneur and millionaire from Dallas, became the first Muslim woman and first Iranian in space when she traveled as a self-funded civilian to the International Space Station in 2006.

She reportedly paid $20 million to travel there as a tourist.

The first Muslim in space was Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman, who joined the crew of the shuttle Discovery in 1985.

The Emirates has had other recent successes in its space program.

READ MORE: Is outer space becoming the new wild west?

This February, the UAE put its Amal, or Hope, satellite in orbit around Mars, a first for the Arab world. In 2024, the country hopes to put an unmanned spacecraft on the moon. 

The UAE also has set the ambitious goal of building a human colony on Mars by 2117.

The UAE launched a National Space Programme in 2017 to develop local expertise. Its population of 9.4 million, most of whom are foreign workers, lacks the scientific and industrial base of the big spacefaring nations.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies