x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Winning spaceport poster may mean career lift-off for Emirati

Mariam Al Hammadi is set to become the first of many Emirati students to benefit from the upcoming Virgin Galactic spaceport in Abu Dhabi.

Mariam and Yousif Al Ali during a visit to the Farnborough Air Show in England.
Mariam and Yousif Al Ali during a visit to the Farnborough Air Show in England.

ABU DHABI // Mariam Al Hammadi is set to become the first of many Emirati students to benefit from the upcoming Virgin Galactic spaceport in the capital.

Ms Al Hammadi, a third year graphic design student at Zayed University, won a competition earlier this year to design a poster telling the story of Abu Dhabi becoming the second spaceport, following on from the New Mexico base that opened last year.

The poster was used to promote the Abu Dhabi spaceport project at the Farnborough Air Show in England earlier this month.

It is the first of many planned educational collaborations for the company.

Accompanied by her brother, Yousif, Ms Al Hammadi, 22, will spend six weeks as an intern at Virgin Galactic's London headquarters later this year.

Stephen Attenborough, the commercial director at Virgin Atlantic, hopes the relationship with Zayed University and possibly other institutions will grow.

"The new private space industry that Virgin Galactic is spearheading will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in many fields," he said.He added that among the high calibre entries, Ms Al Hammadi's work, Taking you out of this world ... , stood out for its "creativity, vision and sense of fun".

Ms Al Hammadi said: "The space-port is a big thing for Abu Dhabi. It's opening a new door for people to go to space, not just astronauts but many people. It's such an exciting project and I wanted to convey that in my design, which was meant to attract people to space travel."

She said being in Britain for the air show last month made her realise just how little people know about Abu Dhabi, and she was proud to be able to tell them about her home.

David Howarth, Ms Al Hammadi's teacher, was not surprised by her win. "She's very outgoing and we knew when we were looking at the finalists that she'd be the strongest candidate. It was her personality as much as her design."

Representatives from Virgin had come to brief the students on the project. "We wanted the students to depict the story that within the next five or 10 years, we'll be able to sit in a plane and go to outer space," Mr Howarth said. "They [Virgin] wanted someone to help promote the air show and the collaboration with the UAE and Abu Dhabi."

In April, Virgin Galactic announced Abu Dhabi would be the location for its second spaceport.

The service will let six passengers at a time ride into a low Earth orbit aboard Space Ship Two, which will be carried by one of the company's White Knight Two launcher vehicles. Tickets will cost US$200,000 (Dh730,000) per passenger.

The Abu Dhabi spaceport, a partnership with Aabar Investments, will include a long runway and a nearby zone of airspace for the ascent. It is hoped it could become a space and science centre with activities for families on holiday as well as for regional students.

There may be links to local university programmes with the possibility of integrating space flight experiences with university degree programmes.

mswan@thenational.ae