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05 March 2024

First Emirati Arab astronaut going into space in September

Photo: WAM


The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, MBRSC, has announced that 25th September 2019, will be the launch date of the first Emirati Arab astronaut’s trip to the International Space Station, ISS.

The announcement came during a press conference held by MBRSC that featured Yousuf Hamad Al Shaibani, Director-General of MBRSC; and Salem Al Marri, Assistant Director-General for Scientific and Technical Affairs and Head of the UAE Astronaut Programme at MBRSC. Hazzaa Al Mansoori and Sultan Al Neyadi, the first two Emirati astronauts from the UAE Astronaut Programme, also attended the event.

The UAE Astronaut Programme was launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, in 2017 to train and prepare Emirati astronauts to travel to space on various scientific missions.

The details of the mission to ISS were revealed during the press conference.

Al Shaibani said that one of the astronauts will fly to ISS on Wednesday, 25th September 2019 for an eight-day Russian space mission to ISS aboard a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft and will travel back aboard a Soyuz-MS 12. The second astronaut will continue training for future missions.

Al Shaibani thanked the UAE's leadership for their belief in the capabilities of Emirati youth and for providing them with all the necessary resources at the UAE Astronaut Programme, part of the UAE National Space Programme.

He also thanked the ICT fund of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, TRA, for the support it has extended to the UAE Astronaut Programme.

"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.

Al Marri 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 25th 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.

He noted that 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."

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.

Al Mansoori and Al Neyadi thanked the UAE’s leadership for providing all the support and resources needed to achieve their ambitions.

They stressed that the UAE's scientific and technical environment encourages youth to study science, develop a culture of research, exploration, and innovation, and helps prepare a generation of Emirati scientists and engineers who can contribute to achieving the vision of the UAE’s leadership to transform the country into a knowledge-based economy.

The astronauts pledged that they will be the UAE’s ambassadors in space, and contribute to serve both the nation and humanity.

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 UAE Astronaut Programme, managed and run by MBRSC, is part of the UAE National Space Programme and contributes to achieving the national strategy to develop scientific cadres, prepare future generations according to the highest international standards, and participate in scientific missions. The Programme is funded by the ICT fund of the TRA.

Launched in 2007, the fund, which is the first of its kind in the Arab world, aims to support research and development within the ICT sector in the UAE, in order to support its growth into a nationally significant and world-leading industry.

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.