Saudi rocket scientist aims for the moon

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Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH
— Saudi aerospace engineer Mishaal Alshemimry wishes to see more opportunities in the Kingdom and possibly a space agency.

A rocket company founded by Alshemimry wants to make space more accessible through innovative and low-cost launch vehicles.

MISHAAL Aerospace, based in Miami, Florida, is developing its own line of launch vehicles to be able to achieve further strives in space such as sending small satellites and being able to mine the moon and bring back samples to earth.

Dar Al-Hekma University in Jeddah recently awarded Alshemimry a certificate for inspiring Saudi women.

Dar Al-Hekma University is also exploring with Alshemimry the possibilities of expanding opportunities in different majors for students.

“Saudi Arabia needs to show an initiative in being self-sustaining by putting its own satellites in space,” she told Saudi Gazette.

“If they start opening that door, I’m sure many people would like to do aerospace engineering,” Alshemimry said.

“Mishaal Alshemimry is a pioneer,” President of Dar Al-Hekma University Dr. Suhair Al Qurashi said. “Inspiration for others is a tough task. It requires guts, toil, blood, sweat and tears. Mishaal has reached unbelievable heights and today we all need to dream, believe and we can achieve.”

“There have been many obstacles that could have stopped me. The thing that dictates is the drive and the determination and the resilience to proceed.

These are the elements to keep you going and not lose focus,” said Alshemimry, who holds both undergraduate and Masters degrees in aerospace engineering from Florida Institute of Technology.

She was born in the United States to Saudi parents.

Her fascination with space started at a young age when she was once gazing at the stars in the Unayzah desert and wanted to find out more about them.

“Making the rockets was the only way to do that and it became my mission,” she said. “When I look back at the moment I was inspired, when I was six, it somehow puts things into perspective.”

In the early 2000s during which aerospace entered a new movement paving the way for entrepreneurial ventures making space more accessible and cost-effective for all, Alshemimry decided to ride the wave and compete with the likes of Elon Musk.

Her experience before founding her startup includes research work in her graduate studies that NASA funded and later working with defense contractors Raytheon.

Her startup seeks to deliver flexible, out-of-the-box, and cost-effective options for space access.

Attracting investors remains difficult, she said speaking on the challenges faced.

“Aerospace is not an easy field to attract investors,” she said. “It’s considered too risky for the average type of investor.”

Women have to work several times as hard as men to get recognized in a field mainly occupied by men, she further said. “The retention in the field could use some strengthening. I’d like to see more women staying in aerospace, not just working for a few years and then leaving.”

Pioneering companies around the world contributing to the new space movement are exploring several projects, such as space tourism, sending humans to Mars, mining the moon, mining asteroids, and using the moon as a hub to explore deeper into space.

The Emirates Mars Mission in the UAE recently announced plans to arrive in Mars in 2021 as it aims to build technological capabilities in the fields of aerospace and space exploration.


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