UAE Astronauts Share Their Experiences at Press Conference Organised by DPC

Photo: Dubai Media Office

The Dubai Press Club (DPC) on Tuesday hosted a press conference featuring two UAE astronauts Hazzaa Al Mansoori and Sultan Al Neyadi. The astronauts shared their insights and experiences related to space travel and details of Al Mansoori’s historic eight-day scientific mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).  Salem Al Marri, Head of the UAE Astronaut Programme, Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), joined the two astronauts to share key milestones in the UAE’s space exploration journey. The event was attended by local, regional and international media.

On this occasion, Her Excellency Mona Al Marri, Director General of the Government of Dubai Media Office (GDMO) and President of Dubai Press Club (DPC), said that the event was designed to offer both Emirati and international media an opportunity to closely interact with UAE astronauts and learn more about the historic mission, which marks another chapter in the UAE’s development. She highlighted the importance of sharing the story of the journey with the entire community as it inspires the younger generation to discover and innovate.

“The historic event reflects the UAE's keenness to participate in shaping the future of the world by exploring vital sectors such as space, which will help find solutions to the challenges facing humanity,” HE Al Marri said. She stressed the role of the media in supporting the UAE’s National Space Programme and its strategic objectives by highlighting the significance of such achievements.

His Excellency Yousuf Hamad Al Shaibani, Director General of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), thanked Dubai Press Club for hosting the two Emirati astronauts, Hazzaa AlMansoori and Sultan AlNeyadi. “The media is a pivotal and strategic partner in supporting the process of development and prosperity, through its role in highlighting the UAE’s biggest achievements, including in the space sector,” said AlShaibani.

“The media supported the two Emirati astronauts, Hazzaa AlMansoori and Sultan AlNeyadi, during their preparatory phase that included intensive training and tests as well as the period from the mission launch to AlMansoori’s return to earth. The media have also supported all the space missions supervised and implemented by the MBRSC,” added AlShaibani.

In the meantime, we believe that investing in the space sector has earned us a lot of scientific and practical experience. This helps us to sustain the programme, which aims to train Emirati astronauts to participate in scientific space research focused on bringing benefits to humanity”.

During the event, Salem Al Marri spoke about the various stages of the UAE’s space exploration programme, which began with the UAE’s National Space Programme and later featured the UAE Astronaut Programme. The programme will continue with the launch of the historic Hope Probe in July 2020. The first Arab exploration of the red planet, the Hope Probe is expected to reach the Mars orbit in seven to eight months.

Al Marri said it has been 32 years since Arabs have been part of a human spaceflight programme. “Under the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Arab involvement in space will steadily grow. The UAE’s frequent initiatives in this domain will ensure Arabs will play a prominent part in the global space scene.

Al Marri also pointed out that the next phase will see the UAE hosting the 71st edition of the International Astronautical Congress in 2020, making it the first country in the Arab world to hold the event.

“The next phase will also see MBRSC focusing on developing collaborations with universities in order to conduct scientific experiments related to space. These kind of collaborations will become a permanent feature, and we will continue to share our experiences with the educational community,” said Al Marri, noting that MBRSC has already conducted 25 joint experiments with the involvement of around 1,000 students.

Al Marri said that the announcement of the UAE Astronaut Programme drew remarkable interest from Emiratis. “There were 4,022 applicants for the MBRSC UAE Astronaut Programme of which 35 per cent were women. The applicants ranged between the ages of 17 and 67,” he said, adding that the selection criteria followed standards applied by international space agencies.

Al Marri pointed out that the results of the 16 scientific experiments conducted by Hazza AlMansouri on the International Space Station will be revealed in two stages. “The first batch of the experiments will be made available to the international community by the beginning of next year, while the second batch will be unveiled in mid-2020.”

16 scientific experiments

Responding to questions from the media, the UAE’s first astronaut AlMansoori shared the most important lessons he learned during his space mission. Key learnings included how to adapt to life on the International Space Station, how to act in zero gravity and perform other daily work, in addition to performing prayers in space. “I am proud to have accomplished this mission, and this is just the beginning of our involvement in human spaceflights,” he said. As a result of the historic mission, he is now responsible for being a role model in this domain,” he added.

AlMansouri said that he conducted 16 scientific experiments in cooperation with international space agencies, including the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, and NASA. Six of these experiments were conducted in microgravity to study the reaction of vital indicators of the human body aboard the ISS. These included Brain DTI, Osteology, motor control, time perception in microgravity, Fluidics (fluid dynamics in space), and DNAm-Age.

The first Arab astronaut to travel to the International Space Station and only the third Arab in space after Saudi Arabia’s Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz (1985), and Syria’s Mohammad Faris (1987), AlMansouri said that it was the first time an astronaut from the Arab region has participated in specialised space research. “The UAE’s involvement in this sector is a very significant step that marks the beginning of the country’s participation in human spaceflights.”

AlMansoori further expressed his pride at being the first to conduct a video tour in Arabic aboard the International Space Station. In the video, he explained the components of the station and the equipment on board, in addition to providing a short brief about the daily life of astronauts on board the station.

Inspiring Youth

AlMansoori also spoke about his experience reading two stories for children, called Amal and Khalifa, which made him the first Arab astronaut to narrate children stories on the ISS. The scientific mission included experiments involving schools in the UAE as part of MBRSC’s Science in Space initiative. The first phase of the initiative saw the participation of nearly 15 schools from the UAE, in the presence of AlMansoori. In the second phase, the experiments were conducted in microgravity aboard the ISS during Hazzaa’s mission.  Live sessions were also organised through video calls, in partnership with global space agencies, or radio HAM, in partnership with the Emirates Amateur Radio Society. The sessions were attended by school students from all over the UAE. Students were given the opportunity to ask AlMansoori questions about life aboard the ISS.

Speaking about his experience aboard the space station, he said: “I kept contemplating the beauty of earth seen from above, but I was mostly concerned about the importance of preserving our planet and the need to continue investing in clean energy and climate change research to improve human life on earth.”

Meanwhile, UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi, who served as the backup astronaut for the mission, said he always used to wonder how his daughter could be an astronaut in the next 10-15 years, but never expected to become one himself. “But then the UAE Astronaut Programme was launched and thanks to the vision of our leadership, we were able to make a historic achievement in such a short period of time.”

AlNeyadi also spoke about how he was inspired by his father, who worked in the UAE Air Force. His example encouraged him to pursue his studies in aerospace engineering. He also expressed his pride at the successful mission and the participation of young Emiratis.

Hazzaa AlMansoori, the first Emirati astronaut, embarked on the UAE’s first scientific mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on 25 September 2019. The mission, which carried the slogan ‘Zayed’s Ambition’, made the UAE the 19th country worldwide, and the first country in the Arab region, to travel to the ISS.

AlMansoori conducted 31 scientific experiments, out of which 16 were held in cooperation with international space agencies, including the Russian Roscosmos, NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). A total of 15 experiments featured schools in the UAE as part of MBRSC’s Science in Space initiative.

The UAE Astronaut Programme

Launched in 2017 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE 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, The UAE Astronaut Programme is the first integrated programme in the Arab region to prepare national cadres to participate in human spaceflights and carry out various scientific missions, in addition to becoming a part of the research carried out by the global scientific community to devise solutions for challenges facing humanity.

AlMansoori was one of the first astronauts selected for the UAE Astronaut Programme. The Programme aims to train and prepare a team of Emirati astronauts for various scientific missions in space. AlMansoori was selected from 4,022 candidates, following a series of mental and physical tests in the UAE and abroad. His military background played a major role in ensuring high levels of physical fitness. He had previously undergone physical fitness tests in the UAE and abroad, to qualify to become an F-16B60 instructor pilot, a demo pilot and a SOLO Demonstration pilot in F-16B60. He has also undergone a number of training courses such as the water survival course, GYRO LAP Course up to 9G’s, Spatial Disorientation course, and the RED Flag Exercise in US, Las Vegas.

As part of the agreement between the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and Russian space agency Roscosmos to train Emirati astronauts, AlMansoori travelled to Russia in September 2018 to undergo training for the 25 September mission.

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