For Abdalla al Darmaki, 21, the scope of his ambitions is as limitless as outer space. The Emirati aviation student, who used to attend the Higher Colleges of Technology, is slated to be the first applicant to a partnership programme between Nasa and the Arab Youth Venture Foundation. Mr al Darmaki's interests are mostly in the fields of simulation and remote sensing, which is why he is so excited at the project of joining the renowned space agency.
His involvement with the foundation began as a youth leader, taking part in activities that included simulation programmes, building robots and spending time in a planetarium, as well as art projects. Mr al Darmaki did it to "get some experience and at the same time learn and teach others". He believes the opportunity to study and work with Nasa teams is not to be missed. "It's a really great chance," he said. "They told me about it and I thought it was a great idea. And I am passionate about astronomy.
"As soon as I heard Nasa was opening the way for Emiratis to go there, I told them I wanted to go. It opens the door to opportunities, to a better environment, to a motive." "I was amazed. I asked myself, 'Nasa now wants Arabs?' " The partnership would allow him to gain the expertise necessary to pursue graduate studies and work in aviation, he said, adding that he would continue studying his aviation books in preparation for the possibility of joining the programme.
Nor does he lack faith in his Emirati counterparts who might apply. "I encourage them," he said. "I am sure there are Emirati youths capable of doing this, but they always pick the easier path." There are many, he said, who have greater abilities than he does but who do not take advantage of them. "Maybe they didn't have the chance, and now the chance is open," he said. Mr al Darmaki recognised, however, that those travelling to the US to take part in Nasa projects had a bigger responsibility to bear.
"If we send someone there, he is a representative of Arabs and Emiratis," he said. "The most important thing is to show them that we're like them, that we have the ability. But the chance wasn't there for us to show it before. "These youths will prove to the West that we're not less capable than them." firstname.lastname@example.org