The UAE will make history next month as the first Emirati astronaut, Hazza Al Mansouri, heads to the International Space Station (ISS) on September 25 at 5.56pm (UAE time) onboard a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft along with NASA astronaut Jessica Meir and Russian commander Oleg Skripochka. The journey to ISS will take anywhere between two hours and two days, depending on the travel conditions. The announcement was made by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) team at a press conference in Dubai this week.
Final preparations are under way to ensure that Al Mansouri, a former military pilot, and fellow astronaut, Sultan Al Neyadi, who serves as a backup, are both equally trained to take the flight with a final training exam scheduled for August 30. Both astronauts have completed more than 90 training courses and 1400 hours of rigorous training as part of their efforts to be prepared for the space mission although Al Mansouri is the primary candidate for the mission.
Al Mansouri will conduct 16 scientific experiments at the ISS during the eight-day mission to better understand how the human body responds in space. The experiments will be conducted alongside the UAE’s international space partner, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency).
So far, 250 astronauts from 18 countries have been to space. The UAE hopes to be the 19th country to join this elite league.
Al Mansoori, who will take on the role of second flight engineer, is allowed 10kg of cargo to space and will carry the UAE flag, several artefacts and objects of cultural value as well as the Quran along with some personal items. He is also expected to bring back souvenirs from space for the UAE and its leadership.
MBRSC will have four ground stations based between Dubai and Moscow with a team of engineers in close contact with Al Mansoori.
Al Mansoori will have five video calls and three radio communications with the UAE during his time at the ISS. A new Radio Frequency has also been created to maintain close contact with Al Mansoori.
Around 400 students and researchers will closely study and monitor this mission.
The UAE astronaut mission to space is part of a multi-million dollar investment in space from the UAE government aimed at building the country’s knowledge economy.