Dubai: The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) on Thursday revealed details of the second crewed mission of the UAE Astronaut Programme to the International Space Station (ISS) at an event held at the Museum of the Future in Dubai.
Scheduled for launch on 26 February at 11.07am, the mission will be the first long-duration Arab astronaut mission. UAE’s Sultan AlNeyadi is the prime astronaut of the mission while astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori is a backup crew.
The mission will make the UAE the 11th country to send astronauts on a long-duration mission to the International Space Station as well as train and prepare them for spacewalks.
Dubbed as Crew-6, the mission will launch aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, with Emirati astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi being designated as the Mission Specialist of the Prime Crew along with NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen (Spacecraft Commander) and Warren Hoburg (Pilot) and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev (Mission Specialist).
Crew-6 is part of Expedition 69, with Roscosmos Cosmonauts Nikolai Chub and Oleg Kononenko, and NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara joining the team at later dates. Expedition 69 will potentially continue to install the final pieces of iROSA, the roll-out solar arrays on the International Space Station, in addition to conducting scientific experiments and research.
The backup for Crew-6 comprises Emirati Astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori (Mission Specialist), NASA’s Jasmin Moghbeli (Spacecraft Commander), ESA’s Andreas Mogensen (Pilot) and Roscosmos’ Konstantin Borisov (Mission Specialist).
Once on-board the ISS, Sultan will have a heavy schedule of experiments and dedicated time for live interactions with various entities, universities and schools. There will be 13 live calls and 10 ham radio interactions, and sessions for the community outreach programme with Emirates Literature Foundation, which will be allocated throughout the six months.
The details of the mission were announced at the star-studded event which also witnessed the unveiling of the mission logo. The event was attended by Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs; Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation; Dr. Amer Ahmad Sharif, CEO of Dubai Academic Health Corporation and President of Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences; Salem AlMarri, Director General of MBRSC; Emirati astronauts Sultan AlNeyadi and Hazzaa AlMansoori; and other dignitaries, partners and the media.
Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, Chairman of MBRSC said: “Guided by the vision of our wise leadership, the UAE’s space sector has grown significantly over the past decade, with major achievements, including the Emirates Mars Mission, the Emirates Lunar Mission and the upcoming first long-duration Arab astronaut mission. As we look to the future, we are committed to building on this momentum and expanding the capabilities of our space programme and our astronauts. As part of the UAE Astronaut Programme, we have created a sustainable ecosystem that is set to further enhance our understanding of space. Moreover, from uncrewed planetary missions, we are building on the possibility of crewed missions to space and beyond.”
Highlighting the importance of the mission, Salem AlMarri, Director General of MBRSC, said: “The country is establishing the foundations of this vital sector by providing it with qualified national talent, launching further scientific projects related to space exploration, and supporting the leadership’s economic vision. Long-duration space missions play a crucial role in advancing our understanding of space and our ability to explore and utilise it in the future.”
Five years history
He further added:, “Five years down the line, we have not only flown the first Emirati astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori to space, but are also set to send Sultan AlNeyadi, from the first batch of the UAE Astronaut Programme, into space for a period of six months. This will not only be the first long-duration space mission undertaken by our astronauts, but also the first by a non-ISS partner country, which is an achievement in itself. AlNeyadi’s mission is the next step in our vision for crewed missions for the UAE, which will be followed by Nora and Mohammed for future missions.”
Salem AlMarri, Director General of MBRSC, unveiled the UAE Mission 2 patch logo while paying tribute to Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE.
Inspired by the first mission logo patch, the second mission patch captures Sultan AlNeyadi as he is looking up to Sheikh Zayed, against the backdrop of the International Space Station, Earth and space. The logo signifies the six-month mission’s crucial role in advancing our understanding of space. The mission will add scientific value and find practical benefits to improve sustainability and efficiency back home.
Scientific and Educational Research
During his 4,000 hours on-board ISS, Sultan AlNeyadi will conduct over 19 advanced research experiments and studies in collaboration with NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) on a range of topics that include: the cardiovascular system, back pain, technical demonstration, epigenetics, immune system, fluid science, plant biology, material science, sleep analysis and radiation.
The mission will further comprise education outreach and engagement efforts to inspire the next generation of scientists and explorers. As part of the UAE Astronaut Programme Grants Research Programme, MBRSC has selected two research projects from the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU), that will also be part of the Crew-6 mission. The first project will focus on assessing how the space flight environment of microgravity affects cardio-postural interactions, while the second project will investigate dental/oral cells in a microgravity-simulated environment on the ground. Both projects will engage students and researchers to ensure the capability development and qualification of new generations of scientists. In addition to MBRU, data sharing from the mission will include prominent local universities such as NYU Abu Dhabi and others.
AlNeyadi, speaking to the audience at the event, said that both astronauts have completed the mission assignment training, in addition to general training totalling more than 1,700 hours with NASA, over the past two years. Some of the key training that AlNeyadi and AlMansoori underwent include:
•Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) or spacewalk training: Both astronauts underwent nine runs of six hours each, training underwater simulating spacewalks utilising the full mock-up for the International Space Station at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
•Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) or spacesuit training: Both astronauts were trained on using and operating the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuit at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory.
•T-38 Jet training session: AlNeyadi and AlMansoori were trained on maintaining aircraft tools to use on the aircraft, flying and communication skills. The theoretical and practical training make astronauts and mission specialists think quickly in changing situations, mental experiences that are critical to practising for the rigours of space flight.
•Robotics: AlNeyadi and AlMansoori trained with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), European Space Agency (ESA) and JAXA to control Canadarm2 on board the International Space Station (ISS), which is used for cargo spaceships, performing spacewalks, handling payloads and maintenance activities aboard the International Space Station.
Additionally, both Emirati astronauts were trained on all sections and units on the ISS, in addition to gaining specialised training for daily tasks on board the space station. They were also engaged in time-critical training of Incapacitated Crew Rescue (ICR) as well as training on off-nominal scenarios like fire, pressure loss and ammonia leakage on-board the ISS. AlNeyadi and AlMansoori were granted the coveted NASA astronaut’s golden pin on completing their training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Upcoming Mission Details
AlNeyadi and AlMansoori will undergo a two-week quarantine before launch, in preparation for the mission. The astronauts of Crew-6 mission will then travel to Kennedy Space Centre six days before the launch. A day before the launch, the crew will try on their tailored spacesuits and conduct a dry rehearsal of going up to the launch site, entering the capsule and conducting all checks to confirm everything is in order.
Speaking on the upcoming mission, Sultan AlNeyadi said: “With the second mission to the ISS, we are raising the limits of our ambitions and raising the UAE flag ever higher. This mission presents a unique chance for the UAE to contribute to the international space community and advance our understanding of the universe. I am grateful for the support and training provided by NASA and our international partners, and I am excited to create new milestones together during this mission.”
“We are going to space to raise the limits of our ambitions and keep the flag of the UAE flying high. All these are for future generations, for whom a promising and auspicious future awaits,” he added.
Hazzaa AlMansoori spoke about what it means to be the first to travel to the ISS. “Being an astronaut from the UAE and the Arab world means being part of something bigger than yourself. It means dedicating your life to exploring the unknown and pushing the boundaries in the fields of space and science. It is a privilege and an honour to have had the opportunity to represent my nation and humanity in the vastness of space. Sultan’s mission to the International Space Station is a continuation of this incredible journey of discovery and exploration.”
The UAE Astronaut Programme is one of the projects funded by the ICT Fund of the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA), which aims to support research and development in the ICT sector in the UAE and promote the country’s integration on the global stage.
Community Initiatives by MBRSC
With an aim to further connect with the community and the future generation of the UAE, Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre has partnered with the Emirates Literature Foundation to build a knowledge-based programme. Under the partnership, the entities launched ELF in Space — a fun and educational initiative that seeks to foster a learning drive in the community.
From workshops to weekly content, the Emirates Literature Foundation will activate this specially curated programme for all students in the UAE during the period of the mission on ISS. The centre aims to reach 20,000 students/children through this programme.
Emirates Literature Foundation
Speaking on the partnership, Isobel Abulhoul OBE, CEO and Trustee, Emirates Literature Foundation and Festival Director, “Emirates Literature Foundation is thrilled to be partnering once again with our extended family, MBRSC, to showcase the courageous and inspiring strides of the UAE’s space project to young people across the Arab world. At ELF we are passionate about bringing the spoken and written word alive for children across the Emirates, the Arab world and beyond, so we feel that this collaboration aligns perfectly with our ethos of supporting children to reach for the stars and achieve their dreams. Over the six months that Astronaut Sultan will be in the ISS our collaboration will include a weekly broadcast — packed full of interviews, fun facts, competitions, activities and opportunities to ask the astronauts questions, “elfinspace” will truly be a landmark in interactive education to bring the exciting and groundbreaking work of the UAE’s mission in space to life.”
Isobel further added, “With our love of literature, we have included a wonderful range of authors, poets and scientists to engage with the astronauts and light the fire of imagination among future generations of space explorers. We look forward to this exciting adventure together.”