Space champs on a mission : Gulf Weekly Online

[Gulf Weekly] Space champs on a mission : Gulf Weekly Online

Cover Story

November 16 - November 22 , 2022


By Naman Arora

[email protected]

Four of Bahrain’s brightest young minds are on a mission to represent the kingdom at one of the top space camps in the world.

Next summer, Mission Team Nine: Bahrain, comprised of Hasan Abdulrahman Hashem, Lea Hamad Janahi, Maryam Khaled Alawadi, and Naser Mohamed Alqooti, will be headed for a hands-on astronaut training experience at the US Space and Rocket Centre’s renowned Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.

The teenagers, all aged 16, will be guided by Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency (NSSA) strategic planning and projects management chief Amal Albinali.

The all-expenses-paid Astronaut Al Worden Endeavour Scholarship programme is aimed at encouraging bright students to explore careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM).

“The whole world is watching Bahrain’s blooming space programme with excitement,” explained Tom Kallman, chief executive of Kallman Foundation, who started the scholarship in honour of his friend, the late NASA astronaut Al Worden.

Tom was speaking at the Endeavour Scholarship Awards Ceremony during the Bahrain International Airshow 2022 (BIAS), held last weekend at the Sakhir Air Base.

Amongst the guests at the event were US Ambassador Steven Bondy, Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Mohammed bin Thamer Al Kaabi and NSSA chief executive Dr Mohamed Al Aseeri.

Al Worden was the Apollo 15 Command Module pilot and a global STEAM advocate, and the scholarship hopes to take his legacy forward.

The scholarship is being organised in association with the NSSA, Transportation and Telecommunications Ministry and BIAS.

At the ceremony, the members of the galactic gang received special jackets, akin to those astronauts receive upon being picked for a space mission. 

“Curiosity about space and wanting to explore what’s out there beyond this tiny rock in a huge vacuum has always been my passion,” Hasan, a student at Naseem International School, told GulfWeekly.

“I am looking forward to meeting people from around the world and getting to try out new things like exploring low gravity and building rockets!”

During the week-long space camp, teams will work together to take on a number of challenges, including scuba diving, experiencing weightlessness, rocket-building and zip lining, culminating in a five-hour simulated International Space Station mission, where they have to repair components and deal with emergencies.

The team was hand-picked out of applications from schools across Bahrain, based not just on each member’s proficiency in one or more of the STEAM subjects, but also their chemistry as a squad.

According to their educator Amal, who will be accompanying the cosmic crew to Alabama, the committee that picked and interviewed the students was looking for a diverse group that would work well under stressful circumstances.

And just like a real space mission, the space squad will be going through a number of preparatory activities and sub-tasks to build stronger team cohesion. The first of these is creating a special patch which will be affixed to the jackets the students received.

Due to the variety of tasks, it was just as important to have a diverse set of students, each bringing their own touch to the planetary posse.

“The beauty of space fascinates me and being an art student, colours of the stars and their awe-inspiring aesthetic are what drew me to it,” explained Lea, who studies at Ibn Khuldoon National School.

“I am not sure at the moment what I want to do, career-wise, in the future, but an opportunity like this can help me find a career path that I might want to explore.”

For more details, follow @nssa_bh on Instagram.

Source: Gulf Weekly