In 2017, Alia’s research on heat shock proteins won her the Genes in Space Award. She discovered that these could potentially be used as a shield for the human body for conditions such as microgravity and radiation that are typically encountered in outer space. “Astronauts can’t keep wearing suits to protect us forever,” she claims. “I wanted to find a way to keep us safe from the inside out.”

First there was a flash of light, followed by a wall of sound, as the Falcon 9 rocket lifted into clear Florida skies, carrying the dreams of Emirati teenager Alia Al Mansoori into space. Loaded on the Dragon capsule on top of the Space X rocket was her winning experiment in the UAE Genes in Space competition, sponsored by The National, the UAE Space Agency and Boeing. 

Watching the Falcon 9 climb into the sky, Alia said: “I literally can’t believe that my experiment is now in space. All the months of effort was worthwhile. The feeling I got when it launched was just so inspiring.” The experiment has a number of applications, including researching diseases and also seeing if it is possible to test human genomes in space – something which has never been done before. If successful they will help humans better prepare for the radiation experienced in deep space flight to destinations like Mars – one of Alia’s ambitions.