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MBRSC completes phase 2 of second analogue study

The mission aims to study in-depth the effect of space flight simulated on Earth to support future long-duration space endeavours.
Photo credit: MBRSC/’X’ platform

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has announced the successful completion of phase 2 of the second analogue study under the UAE Analog Programme, part of NASA’s Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA) Campaign 7 Mission 2. Emirati crew member Shareef Al Romaithi, alongside Jason Lee, Stephanie Navarro, and Piyumi Wijesekara, concluded their 45-day mission within the HERA habitat at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, USA.

The mission, which began on May 11, 2024, involved rigorous scientific research and operational tasks designed to simulate space-like conditions on Earth. The three-story HERA facility provided an environment for studying how crew members adapt to isolation, confinement, and remote conditions, replicating the challenges faced during long-duration space missions. Highlights of the mission included a virtual reality “walk” on Mars’s surface and managing communication delays with the Mission Control Center to simulate nearing Mars, all within the facility located in the USA.

Following their egress, the crew will remain at Johnson Space Centre for seven days. During this period, they will fill out post-mission surveys and engage in discussions with HERA managers and scientists along with contributing data needed for studies involving crew dynamics and health.

Speaking about the successful completion, Salem Humaid Al Marri, Director-General, MBRSC, said: “The successful completion of this phase of the analogue study represents a pivotal advancement in our strategic vision for human space exploration. These Earth-based simulations are indispensable as we work together towards better-preparing astronauts to overcome the challenges of deep space missions. The UAE Analog Programme, in partnership with NASA and academic institutions, exemplifies our unwavering commitment to pioneering scientific research and solidifying the UAE’s position in space technology and exploration. The active involvement of UAE universities in conducting critical studies within these analogue studies also underscores our dedication to fostering a robust scientific community and leveraging local expertise. This milestone further enhances our position in the international space community and aims to inspire future generations to push the limits of human potential.”

Adnan Al Rais, Assistant Director-General – Space Operations and Exploration Sector, MBRSC, added: “Participating in this analogue study allowed us to integrate our unique perspectives and methodologies into the broader framework of human spaceflight research. This collaboration not only enriches our understanding of space mission dynamics but also enhances our preparedness for future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The insights gained from these analogue studies are invaluable as we work towards ensuring the safety and success of our astronauts in human spaceflight missions.”

Shareef Al Romaithi, an Analogue crew member, commented: “Being part of this analogue study has been an incredible journey of discovery and learning. The challenges we faced, from communication delays to living in confined quarters, provided a glimpse into the complexities of long-duration space missions. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this crucial research and am proud to represent the UAE in this international effort. Our work here will pave the way for future explorers, and I look forward to seeing how these studies will impact human spaceflight.”

The second analogue study under the UAE Analogue Programme is part of a comprehensive four-phase analogue study, consisting of 18 human health studies on Earth, aimed at understanding the physiological, behavioural, and psychological responses of crew members in space-like conditions. Notably, six of these studies are from universities in the UAE, which include the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU), and the American University of Sharjah (AUS). These studies will be replicated in the upcoming phases of the analogue study, reinforcing the UAE’s pivotal role in contributing to the global effort of human space exploration.

Al Romaithi is part of the second group of volunteers to participate in an analogue study in HERA this year. The first phase of the second analogue study of the UAE Analogue Programme was completed on March 11, 2024. The third and fourth phases will begin on August 9, 2024, and November 1, 2024, respectively.