Which of two Emirati astronauts will lift off on September 25?

By Angel Chan

First Arab astronaut to visit International Space Station

DUBAI 26 February 2019: The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) announced that 25 September 2019 will be the launch date for the first Emirati Arab astronaut’s trip to the International Space Station (ISS).

It has yet not been announced which of the two astronauts in training – Hazzaa Al Mansoori or Sultan Al Neyadi – will be the first two Arab astronaut in space.

Yousuf Hamad Al Shaibani, MBRSC Director General would only say that one of the astronauts will fly to ISS on Wednesday, 25 September 2019 for an eight-day Russian space mission to ISS aboard a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft. He will travel back aboard a Soyuz-MS 12. The second astronaut will continue training for future missions.

The UAE Astronaut Programme was launched in 2017, to train and prepare Emirati astronauts to travel to space on various scientific missions.

The two astronauts

“Announcing this date is a milestone and a great achievement for the entire Arab region. For the first time, an Arab astronaut will travel to ISS so that Arab youth can repeat the accomplishments of their ancestors who excelled in science and mathematics. This step also supports the aspirations of Emiratis, and their determination to achieve the vision of the UAE’s leadership, and support the UAE in exploring space and preparing national cadres to contribute to enriching scientific progress, serving humanity and promoting more achievements in the industry. This also supports the effort to build a national economy based on knowledge, innovation, and creativity,” said Al Shaibani.

Postponed Flight

Salem Al Marri, Assistant Director General for Scientific and Technical Affairs and Head of the UAE Astronaut Programme at MBRSC, noted that the date of the flight was postponed from April to September 2019 following a launch accident of the Soyuz-MS 10 spacecraft in October.

“The astronauts’ safety is at the top of our list of priorities, so the date was postponed to 25 September. We are pleased that the mission to ISS will take place this year, despite the obstacles faced by our partners at the Russian space agency Roscosmos,” said Al Marri.

Al Marri highlighted that this will be the first time that an astronaut will present an introductory tour in Arabic at ISS. In the introductory tour, he will explain the components of the station, the equipment on board and methods of conducting experiments in zero gravity. The astronaut will be conducting earth observation and imaging experiences, and interacting with ground stations, sharing information and experiences, as well as documenting the daily lives of astronauts at the station. Al Marri confirmed that the visual content of these tours will serve as an Arabic reference and will be available for all those interested in the space sector from the Arab region.

Vital Research

The astronaut’s schedule at ISS will be very busy as he has tasks assigned to him every hour of the day. “The astronaut will conduct research in various fields to be shared with the international scientific community to show the effect of zero gravity on research experiments, compared to gravity on Earth. For example, research will be conducted on the reaction of vital indicators of the human body at ISS, in comparison with Earth, before and after the trip. This is the first time this kind of research will be done by an astronaut from the Arab region. The results of this study will later be compared with research conducted on astronauts from other regions,” said Al Marri.

Al Marri explained that the Emirati astronaut will also be assigned on existing scientific missions in the ISS laboratories, according to the timing and duration of his stay, in addition to the research he will conduct for the UAE’s schools and universities.

4022 Candidates

Al Mansoori and Al Neyadi were selected from a total 4,022 candidates who applied to the UAE Astronaut Programme after a series of advanced medical and psychological tests as well as personal interviews conducted according to the highest international standards.

The ISS

ISS is one of the most unique human innovations ever created. The use of space science and technology on the space station has enabled scientists and astronauts to complete ground breaking research that would not be possible on Earth. ISS is in a fixed low Earth orbit and travels at 28,000 km/hour, which means it takes just 90 minutes to complete an entire orbit of our planet. An international crew of six people call ISS their home at any one time, spending several hours each per week, conducting in-depth research across various disciplines, ranging from space and physical sciences to biological and earth sciences, from the microgravity laboratory. Since the year 2000, the space station has been continually occupied, with over 220 people spending time there from 17 countries. Now, for the first time, an Emirati will join the crew on the space station, which will further cement the position of the UAE among the top space nations in the world.

The UAE Astronaut Programme is funded by the ICT fund of the TRA. Launched in 2007, this fund, the first of its kind in the Arab world, aims to support research and development in the UAE’s ICT sector to help it grow into a nationally significant industry that occupies a leading place in the world.

Emirati astronauts undergo winter survival training in Russia

Emirati astronauts Hazzaa Al Mansoori and Sultan Al Neyadi have undergone a three-day winter survival training organised by the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Zvezdini (Star City) at a forest near the Russian capital Moscow. The training, which aims to prepare the astronauts to survive harsh winter conditions, is part of the ongoing preparations to send the first Emirati astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS).

The winter survival training provides astronauts with several skills that allow them to survive for at least three days in extreme weather conditions using equipment on board the space capsule, in case the landing capsule blows off course causing them to land in a hostile environment. Astronauts learn how to get out of a damaged capsule, how to build two types of shelters, first-aid skills, coping with stress, utilising available resources, and communicating with search and rescue teams through visual signals like flares or wireless communication. This enhances their confidence and allows them to complete the training programme, which is mandatory for all astronauts.

The intensive training featured both practical and theoretical aspects. The theoretical training consisted of two parts. The first focused on the language and words used to convey injury cases and seek help. Hazzaa Al Mansoori and Sultan Al Neyadi chose ‘Zayed’ as the name code that was communicated to the rescue team every hour. The second part of the theoretical training focused on the instructions for survival, learning about the first-aid kit and how to use it. The two astronauts underwent medical and psychological tests before and after the training, to ensure their readiness.

Hazzaa AlMansoori said: “Our greatest achievement in this training was that it enhanced our confidence in our ability to adapt to harsh weather conditions. The training was an accurate simulation of the forced landing experience, which allowed us to go through the entire experience with full commitment and learn a lot from it.”

“We were kept busy throughout the 3-day training. Every hour, we had to send a signal to the rescue team to tell them about our location and our health status. We also took night shifts in rotation to make sure the fire was kept on all the time, in addition to other tasks we did and the steps we learned to stay warm in a sub-zero environment (-10 Degrees Celsius),” said Sultan Al Neyadi.

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Dubai Gazette