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Top US astronaut Donald Thomas begins 4-day visit to UAE schools.

Dr Thomas will address students in each school through a detailed presentation and demonstrations, besides fielding questions from the students.

Dubai -- American astronaut Dr Donald Thomas, who holds the world record for the longest stay on board a space station, began his four-day visit to some of the leading schools in the UAE on Monday. He is on a mission to familiarise students in the country about space travel and share experiences of living on a space station.

The initiative is part of a joint collaboration between the UAE-based Compass International Tours and the US Space and Rocket Centre (USSRC), an affiliate of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa).

Dr Thomas is acknowledged as one of the foremost authorities on space exploration, having set a world record for spending the longest time on an international space station -- a total of 1,040 hours (43 days, eight hours and 13 minutes) in four missions. In 1990, he was selected by Nasa as the International Space Station Programme Scientist to oversee its experiments conducted on the International Space Station.

Lissy Donald, managing director of Compass International, described the initiative as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students in the UAE to learn from one of the most inspiring space heroes.

"We are delighted to be appointed by the USSRC as the Ambassador to represent them in the UAE region and encourage the younger generation to reach for the stars," she said. "Dr Thomas's visit is the first in a series of many programmes that we plan with an aim towards bringing space awareness within easy reach of the region's students."

At the same time, Compass will also launch special packages for students aged from seven to 18 years that will allow them to spend two weeks at the USSRC in Hunstville, Alabama, and closely experience various aspects of the space programme such as living in zero gravity, fitness and dietary preparations and other interactive learning methods.

Dr Thomas will visit 14 leading Dubai-based schools, including Westminster School, Crescent School, Wellington Academy, Cambridge International School, Winchester School, School of Research Science and GEMS Modern Academy. He will address students in each school through a detailed presentation and demonstrations, besides fielding questions from the students.

Dr Thomas will also meet students of other UAE schools on April 29 at a gala dinner planned at Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, where they can interact closely with the astronaut and get a chance to win autographed copies of his autobiography.

Dr Thomas is accompanied by Dr Deborah E. Barnhart, CEO and executive director of the USSRC; and Michael Flachbart, vice-president of Centre Operations at the USSRC.

Since opening its doors in 1970, nearly 16 million people have toured the USSRC. Many of the more than 600,000 annual visitors are school students on field trips to their future. Compass International has facilitated the trips of thousands of UAE students to USSRC, Huntsville, in the past couple of years.

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Publication:Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Apr 27, 2015
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