Dubai: The team behind the UAE’s first Emirati Astronaut Hazza Al Mansoori is confident that he and his crewmates will pass their mock mission on Friday, ahead of their launch to the International Space Station (ISS) on September 25.
The mock mission is a mandatory two-day final exam for astronauts and cosmonauts at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, near Moscow, before they blast off to the ISS. It is a segment of qualification examinations and simulations for the Russian Soyuz and Russian segment of the ISS.
Hazza, 35, a military pilot, will be accompanied by his crewmates Nasa astronaut Jessica Meir and Russian commander Oleg Skripochka for the trip onboard a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft that will be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Sultan Al Neyadi, the reserve astronaut, will also take the exam with his team Sergey Ryzhikov of Roscosmos and Nasa astronaut Thomas Marshburn.
Salem Al Merri, assistant director-general of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and head of the UAE Astronaut Programme, said the exam is crucial, as it will determine whether or not the crew will get the green light for the September 25 mission.
“The examinations are for the primary and back-up crew. They will be assessed by a high-level board from Roscosmos. They will show all they learned in operating a full-on mock-up of the Soyuz, for the launch itself, docking, undocking, and other tasks. Basically, it’s an exam that will test if they know how to operate the spacecraft and the Russian segment of the ISS,” Al Merri told Gulf News.
“There will be different scenarios including an emergency situation where their ability to deal with such situations on board the ISS will be assessed,” he added.
Salem is 100 positive that both teams will pass the exam. For them, failure is not an option.
“This [failure] will not happen because they have been training for this for a long time. They are well prepared for this. They will pass Inshallah. We have high expectations,” Al Merri said.
After passing, the crew will engage in a series of events that have been part of tradition for all astronauts scheduled for a space mission, including offering flowers at the pedestal of Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, a flag raising ceremony at the Cosmonaut Hotel, among others.
After completing all scheduled activities in Moscow, the primary and reserve crew will be flown to Baikonur Cosmodrome in separate planes.
There will be a two-week quarantine period prior to the launch. A series of fit checks and Soyuz fit checks will be conducted along with other additional trainings where they go through some simulators. Their health will be checked daily as well.
On the ground, MBRSC officials will also be busy behind the scenes.
“As for us on the ground, we will be packing all the cargo. We have staff based in Baikonur and also in Moscow, participating with our counterparts in Russia. We’ll have a very large group of about 30 people who all have important tasks to do as part of the mission. Majority of this group are women,” Al Merri said.
Some 20 MBRSC officials involved in the mission will be inside the Mission Control Room during on the launch day itself.
Describing Hazza and his team’s preparedness for the mission, Al Merri said: “From what I’ve seen, as a team they are very close. They’ve been training in Europe, in the US, in Russia together. They have gelled together very well.”