Dubai: Dana Sulaiman Al Beloushi, a nine-year old Emirati, is considered the youngest astronaut trained at Nasa and has returned home with fond memories and big dreams after a visit that included aeronautics and space administration programmes.
Dana embarked on her one-month stint at the Houston, Texas Space Centre along with her brother, Adeeb Sulaiman Al Beloushi, the young Emirati inventor. They also attended a two-month space camp in Hanceville, Alabama.
Dana told Gulf News that amongst the many training programmes was a scuba diving mission, one she enjoyed the most.
“They told us to dive underwater and one of the trainers instructed us to gather 3 green and 2 red plastic toys which were placed in the water,” said Dana. “This mission was underwater since it’s the closest feeling to space because you float and swim your way around.”
She said that particular mission was designed to train astronauts to gather resources when in space.
Dana’s father, Sulaiman Al Beloushi, said that at first he worried about Dana since she was the youngest participant in the training and only had basic swimming skills. However, trainers were impressed by her performance when she successfully completed the mission.
Dana also worked on several other assignments such as creating a ‘life on Mars’ 3D model to present to the trainers upon completion.
“My team and I constructed a safe house on Mars with a rooftop opening for the oxygen vents, we also created an antenna and attached it on the roof for signal,” she said. “We placed the rocket launch far from the safe house to avoid explosion or serious hazards.”
Dana said her team was commended for their attention to detail, such as the location of the rocket launch, when submitting the life on Mars project since other teams failed to do so.
She added that although she enjoyed all assignments given throughout both camps, her favourite was the Robotics course.
“We were asked to build, programme and operate a robot using Legos and an external device to help with the mobility of the robot,” said Dana.
She explained that Nasa has used robots over the years to explore the planets on unmanned missions. There have been several sent to outer space and operated from Earth to help gather more data and research about the planets, said Dana.
“Each robot built had a mission which was to pick up the plastic balls placed around the room and put them in the basket,” she said. “Each robot was connected to a computer and another device containing the controls that allow users to operate the robot.”
She added that another course she found fascinating was one that involved 3D designing and printing objects that can be used in outer space. Dana said that Nasa has recently 3D printed spoons and forks, amongst other objects, in space.
Throughout her training programmes, the youngster wore a blue astronaut suit with her name tag attached upside down. Dana explained that on the graduation day, each young astronaut is given a certificate and has their name tag flipped as a symbol for completing all missions successfully.
“When I went to visit Shaikh Saif [Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior] after we returned, I placed his name tag on my blue astronaut suit to give to him as a present,” she said. “He told me to keep the suit and my certificates as a reminder so that I continue to chase my dreams.”
Dana’s Father, Sulaiman Al Beloushi, said that Dana first met Lieutenant General Shaikh Saif the day Adeeb was commemorated for his excellence. “I always believed that my daughter was smart but when Shaikh Saif gave her a scholarship and pointed out her intelligence, I knew that as her father I had to encourage her to excel in life,” he said.
He added that Dana insisted on visiting Shaikh Saif after her space camp experiences to thank him for his support and confidence in her skills. “When I’m older, I want to go to space, conduct research, explore and be the first and youngest Emirati girl to go to Mars and the moon,” said Dana. “And of course have a little fun with the gravity.”