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Palestinian-American Trailblazer Noor Haj-Tamim Becomes First Female Astronaut

Defying obstacles and gravity!

Noor Haj-Tamim, a Palestinian-American astronaut in training, is breaking barriers and inspiring Arab girls everywhere with her determination to represent her nation among the stars. The New Arab had the privilege of interviewing Noor, who is not only the first Palestinian Citizen Science Astronaut candidate but also one of the youngest female private astronaut candidates in America. She is also the Executive Director for JSSOAR (Jordan Student Space Outreach and Academic Relations), where she works to support Arab students in their pursuit of a career in space.

According to the New Arab, Noor's journey began in a small town in Ohio, where she was born to Palestinian immigrants. Growing up, Noor was surrounded by science posters that sparked her curiosity about the universe. However, being surrounded by traditional housewives made her believe that her destiny was to follow a similar path. It wasn't until her parents' separation when she witnessed her mother's resilience and determination to build a new life that Noor's perspective shifted, propelling her to explore the unknown.

Noor's interest in outer space intensified after experiencing her first meteor shower. The possibility of other life forms in galaxies far away fascinated her, igniting a sense of wonder and exhilaration. Determined to make a difference, Noor founded JSSOAR, a non-profit organization that aims to provide space and STEM education to underserved communities in Jordan. She emphasizes the importance of equity, ensuring that all students have access to resources regardless of their socioeconomic status. Through collaborations with NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, and Let's Talk Science, JSSOAR offers various programs that empower students to pursue their dreams.

Noor's passion for education and space exploration is deeply personal. She reflects on her own journey and the opportunities she gained by moving to the United States. However, she questions why children must leave their homes and cultures to pursue their dreams. Noor believes that everyone, regardless of their background, should have the chance to “reach for the stars.”

Despite facing obstacles and gender disparities in STEM education, Noor's dedication to learning led her to internships and eventually acceptance into the astronaut candidacy program. As she filled out forms for her training, she noticed that Palestine was not represented among the flags to be placed on suits. This realization was profoundly meaningful to her, as her heritage is deeply rooted in Palestine. Noor explains the symbolism of the Palestinian flag's colors, representing the sacrifices, oppression, peace, and hope of the Palestinian people.

Today, Noor's mission is to make a difference through JSSOAR and inspire others to pursue their passions as she hopes to become the world's first Private Science Astronaut Candidate of Palestinian origin. Noor's story is a testament to the power of determination and the belief that nothing is impossible. She continues to inspire Arab girls, proving that they too can reach for the stars and make their dreams a reality. 

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