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MBRSC completes first UAE Analog Mission

The 240-day mission will replicate various stages and scenarios of a manned mission to the Moon which follows phases such as launch, orbit, landing, and return.

MBRSC has announced the accomplishment of the first UAE Analog Mission after achieving all its objectives. This was achieved as part of the SIRIUS-21 programme that commenced on November 4 2021 and lasted for eight months to test the effects of isolation on humans’ psychological and physiological conditions.

Analog Astronaut Saleh AlAmeri from MBRSC took part in the mission representing the UAE, with Oleg Blinov, surgeon, Viktoria Kirichenko from the Institute of Medical and Biological Research in Moscow, and Ashley Kowalski and William Brown of NASA.

The participation of the United Arab Emirates in the mission aimed to support scientific communities and research centres locally and internationally, as the outputs of the mission will reflect on scientific research efforts, especially since AlAmeri conducted 70 experiments during the mission’s period, including five experiments from four Emirati universities covering the fields of physiology, psychology, and biology.

Commenting on the achievement, Hamad Obaid AlMansoori, Chairman of MBRSC said: “The great support provided by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai and His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of the Executive Council and President of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, to develop the space sector is key to the UAE’s successive achievements in the field of space exploration. Our recent accomplishments will strengthen our position in the global space community as a leader among nations with space programmes as well as contribute to new knowledge and innovation.”

He explained that the people of the UAE are once again demonstrating the extent of their competence and capabilities in the space sector, which the world is witnessing. He added: “We aim to achieve continuous successes of various UAE initiatives through our upcoming projects. It is worth noting the UAE, analog astronaut Saleh AlAmeri, has contributed new knowledge and key developments to the Emirati space exploration project, thanks to his efforts and perseverance that led to the Analog Mission’s success.”

He also stated that the UAE’s participation in this mission, along with four other analog astronauts from the Institute of Biomedical Problems in Moscow and NASA, demonstrates the world’s confidence in our national cadres and also reflects the high value that our national initiatives and projects bring to the field of space exploration for the benefit of humanity and the global scientific community.

Salem AlMarri, Director-General of MBRSC, added: “Analog astronaut Saleh AlAmeri has successfully achieved the goals of the first UAE Analog Mission, which he accomplished through effort and perseverance during an eight-month isolation period within the SIRIUS-21 programme, noting that the positive results achieved through the scientific experiments that took place, will contribute significantly to studying the effects of isolation on human psychology and physiology, in addition to helping prepare for future space exploration missions.”

Adnan AlRais, Director of Mars 2117 Programme, MBRSC, stated: “The SIRIUS 21 project has accomplished new achievements, and witnessed over 70 experiments conducted during the eight-month-long mission. This was made possible by an international collaboration between the Institute of Medical and Biological Research in Moscow, NASA, and MBRSC. The team concluded its mission and took with them extensive scientific experience and deep knowledge that will help us with all our future projects.”

AlRais added: “We in the UAE and the MBRSC are proud to participate in the Analog Mission, which represents an important milestone within the UAE Analog Programme, as part of our long-term project Mars 2117, to send humans to Mars and build a settlement on the surface of the Red Planet. The SIRIUS-21 project is a representation of international collaboration, where all involved parties work together towards the common goal of developing science and technologies that will enable us to launch ambitious future missions.”

Saleh AlAmeri commented: “It is my honour to congratulate my fellow SIRIUS-21 crew members and to dedicate this achievement to the wise leadership of rulers of the United Arab Emirates and to express how very proud I am of the success of the First UAE Analog Mission. The mission involved 240 days of hard work, but to me, it represented 240 days of serving my country. I would like to also extend my gratitude and appreciation to my colleague Abdualla AlHammadi for his incredible support during the mission where we achieved all our goals.”

AlAmeri continued: “It was a long mission and we experienced complete isolation, with the cooperation of an international crew of collaborators. That said, it was a very rich task, as 70 scientific experiments were conducted that required 12 hours a day shifts from seven in the morning until seven in the evening. I was pleased to participate in this exceptional experience due to the presence of a professional and supportive crew in various circumstances. Above that, I had the opportunity to benefit and learn about different aspects of space, and it will be a strong impetus to make further progress in this sector, with the continuous endeavour to invest in the youth of the country.”

Saleh AlAmri’s experiments included the fields of physiology, psychology and biology, while the research of the Emirati universities selected for the mission included research from the Mohammed bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, which focused on the effects of long-duration exposure to environments simulating life in space on changing the state of the heart. The research topic presented by the University of Sharjah highlighted the study of determining the effects of stress caused by isolation on circulatory and musculoskeletal function in crew members during the mission, with measurement of clinical, genomic, transcriptional, and proteomic parameters.

AlAmeri’s experiments, implemented successfully and with high efficiency, included simulating the operation of a space robot and reducing stress in isolation. He also conducted virtual reality experiments, such as launching a vehicle and securing its docking with the International Space Station, in addition to flying over the moon and Mars. The results of his electroencephalogram experiment provided a clear picture of brain functions in isolation. This was done to help scientists gain more insights into the effects of long-term isolation on the brain and changes in its cognitive functions. Other experiments included examining the samples AlAmeri collected with his colleagues during a simulated lunar landing experiment, collating and transporting them to the lunar base, as well as experimenting with the use of the robotic arm, Kandarm 2, to pick up cargo vehicles and transport equipment, among others.

Abdullah Al Hammadi, who is part of the reserve team that worked in the ground operations centre, played an important role in the mission by providing support to AlAmeri and the rest of the crew. He focused on the follow-up mission scenario and assisted the crew members as well as following up and reviewing the task schedule, through the operations centre, and analyzing data during the period of scientific experiments, in order to accurately work out a clear future plan for various scenarios and to communicate and provide psychological support to all crew members.

The SIRIUS-21 mission crew worked in a sealed capsule simulating a spacecraft to understand not just the effects of isolation on human physiology and psychology but also to gain insights on team dynamics during long-duration space exploration missions. The mission facility consisted of independent life support systems adhering to specific and controlled parameters, including ventilation and air conditioning systems, atmospheric purification, gas analysis and support for specific conditions of pressure, temperature, humidity, and gas composition.