Azza Al Bakr Image Credit: Binsal Abdul Kader/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Azza Al Bakr, an Emirati postgraduate student at Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, dreams of joining the UAE’s ambitious space programmes one day.

A training programme in space fundamentals she recently attended and a research project on satellites at her institute have further inspired her dreams.

“I found it interesting to work at labs [space technology laboratories] as it offers new experience and knowledge,” the 24-year-old student of Microsystems Management told Gulf News on the sidelines of a recent event in Abu Dhabi.

She said a training programme at Lockheed Martin’s Centre for Innovation and Security Solutions (CISS) at Masdar City as part of a collaboration between Masdar and CISS aroused her curiosity on space programmes. She said the training gave her the opportunity to get acquainted with flight simulators at CISS.

“I am an aviation enthusiast. This is a dream come true. This is the first time I used a simulator and flew aircraft.”

Al Bakr has become an expert on flying aircraft [on simulators], said Shawn Racz, Manager, CISS, Lockheed Martin UAE Ltd. Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company with an employee roster of more than 125,000 around the world.

The UAE Space Agency signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Lockheed Martin in June to launch a training programme for Emirati talents. The agency, which supervises the nation’s ambitious Mars mission, recently celebrated its second anniversary. The UAE space probe is expected to blast off towards Mars in 2021. Sending an unmanned spacecraft to Mars will make the UAE the first Arab country and one of only nine countries with space programmes to explore Mars.

Al Bakr is also involved in a two-year project at her institute on CubeSat. A CubeSat is a type of miniaturised satellite for space research. “We will launch it in 2018 and its purpose is taking pictures of the UAE,” she said.

Eleven students from different backgrounds are involved in this research-oriented project, said the Electronics Engineering graduate from the American University of Ras Al Khaimah. She expects more students to join the programme when the new academic year begins in September.

She said the opportunity to visit Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai was also a wonderful experience. She said she is confident of contributing to the UAE’s space programmes, if given a chance after completing her course. “I would love to join the UAE Space Agency. I think right now I have many options in the UAE [to work in space programmes].”