Dubai: The UAE's participation in the Lunar Gateway, announced on January 7, 2024 — the first planned space station to orbit the moon — will eventually replace the International Space Station (ISS) in the coming years, according to Emirati astronaut Hazzaa Al Mansoori who is also Astronauts Office Manager for Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai.
Speaking at a session during the 16th edition of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2024 on Friday, Al Mansoori said: “NASA and various space agencies around the world are now shifting their attention on orbiting to the moon. Our eyes are on Mars and if we are looking at Mars, we need to go beyond the International Space Station (ISS). For example the ISS orbits Earth at an average altitude of approximately 250 miles, travelling at a speed of 17,500 mph. It orbits Earth every 90 minutes.”
“The moon on the other hand is 384,400 kms away from Earth. The aim is to move away from low orbit and head further away from Earth. We are so proud that UAE is part of the Lunar Gateway. We are a partner, it is a huge responsibility and it is challenging. But we are so proud to be part of the larger picture,” Al Mansoori told Gulf News on Friday at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2024 being held at the Dubai Festival City.
The Lunar Gateway
The Lunar Gateway also referred to as Gateway will serve as a solar-powered communication hub, science laboratory, and short-term habitation module for government-agency astronauts, as well as a holding area for rovers and other robots. It is a multinational collaborative project involving four of the International Space Station partner agencies — NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and as well as the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), which will provide the crew and science airlock module for the Lunar Gateway.
After his session, Al Mansoori also signed a book “Out of this World” — a story on UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi’s journey on board the International Space Station (ISS).
The book — a pictorial story of the astronaut’s six month long journey in space also details anecdotes from Al Neyadi including a page where he shares some of his most emotional times on board. Another dedicated space in the book shows life on board the ISS and more.
Al Mansoori spoke about his new role as the “Astronauts Office Manager” at MBRSC. He added: “To be in this role is really important as we are learning from various countries and agencies around the world on what they are doing for international space. Their achievements in the past decades is essential for us to learn from and that is what we are doing at MBRSC.”
“Here in the UAE we have started what others stopped and we will continue to be on that journey. We are looking forward to being part of the larger picture and learn and train more as astronauts. We are looking forward to being part of the Gateway. As astronauts we need to understand how to conduct missions like these as they it will be new for us. We are really excited about all that is to come.”
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Al Mansoori stressed on the importance of educating students in STEM education — a teaching approach that combines science, technology, engineering and math. “It is really important for students to get comprehensive study that includes all sciences and math. Beside, we are injecting our experiences in school curriculums. This is really important as it is like a spark, planting a seed in young students’ minds.”
Mind body and soul
Al Mansoori told a large gathering of students at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature that he prayed every day on board the ISS. “It was really hectic on the ISS, but I still made time to pray every day. In space physical activity is important to ensure our bones and physical being is preserved upon return to Earth. A strong mind, body and soul is very important to be able to spend an extended time up on space,” he said.