Dubai: Sunday’s live space-to-Earth call by Emirati astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori onboard the International Space Station (ISS) with UAE students in Dubai was extra special as it kicked off just roughly five minutes after the ISS had flown past the Arabian Peninsula, specifically Oman.
Where was ISS?
Hazzaa’s live video call on Sunday started at around 2.43pm as the ISS passed over the Arabian Peninsula to further down south of the UAE, near Ibri in Oman at around 2.38pm, based on information from an ISS live tracker.
Hazzaa was inside the Russian Segment of the ISS when he spoke to the ground station at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Khwaneej, closing the distance between the UAE youth and their space hero.
Excited students asked Hazzaa a variety of questions on how the space station supports the nine Earthlings it houses, including Hazzaa.
How is oxygen produced on the ISS?
One question was how oxygen is produced on the ISS. Hazzaa explained that the ISS, which is an enclosed space, produces oxygen from water using the process called electrolysis where the two hydrogen atoms are separated from oxygen through an electric current.
How hot, or cold, is it on the ISS?
As to the question on how hot or cold it is inside the ISS, Hazzaa replied: “Inside the station is around 22C, plus or minus two degrees. We control it according to our discretion.”
Space itself is known to be extremely cold.
Another student asked what the difference is between experiments conducted on the ground and on the station to which Hazzaa replied: “Your question is really important. On the ISS, the environment has no gravity. It helps people conduct experiments in all fields. The zero-gravity environment helps render more accurate results.”
Keeping in touch
Others asked about how Hazzaa communicates with his family and how his children feel now that their dad is in space.
“We have different communication methods. During my free time, I can communicate with them through special phones and other different means such as e-mail,” Hazzaa said, adding, “They feel proud. I do my best to answer their questions on how to live on the ISS.”
The youngsters were also curious about learning the Russian language which Hazzaa seemed to have picked up quite quickly in less than two years of training, including one year in Start City, Russia.
“It takes time and effort to learn the Russian language. But nothing is impossible if you have determination,” Hazzaa said. But the learning process was not one-way, he said.
“I also taught them some Arabic like As-Salaam-Alaikum (Peace be unto you), Ilal Liqa (See you later) etc,” he added.
When asked how he spends his free time, Hazzaa admitted that his schedule is packed considering his short stay on the ISS.
But whenever he gets free, he said he “prefers to read” and then floated the Qissati, the highly popular book of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. The crowd erupted in cheer and applause.
Hazzaa also had a special surprise during the live call when he announced the 10 winners of the ‘Send To Space Competition’ where students sent their creative posters, poems or short stories. All the winning artworks were displayed by Hazzaa from space for all the students to see.
Some of the artworks showed a black and white sketch close-up of Hazzaa wearing his Sokol spacesuit, a child dreaming of space, an Emirati astronaut pitching the UAE flag on Mars, Shaikh Zayed’s profile with the stars as a backdrop, and many more.
Hazzaa ended the live call at 3pm with a trick he has learned these past days — a somersault in space.
As he said good-bye, some students of the Al Ebdaaa School in Dubai, rushed to try the Emirati space food on offer inside the tent.
Sporting the iconic royal blue astronaut jumpsuit, grade three pupil Anna Jassim tried the madrooba, which was squeezed from a tube. She told Gulf News: “It’s good. It tastes like the original madrooba.” The madrooba is a salt-cured fish seasoned with spices.
Maha Abdullah, 8, said the madrooba tasted a bit sweet although it is a savoury dish.
Meanwhile before the live call, Saud Karmustaji, Director of Communications at MBRSC, encouraged the students to take inspiration from Hazzaa and his backup astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi as they worked hard to pursue their passion.
He said: “I do advise to you follow your passion and if you dream to become an engineer, pursue it. The experiments on the ISS are for the benefit of humanity. The ISS is a gateway for all human beings to know how space will affect us. And it will help us overcome the challenges of going to Mars and the Moon.”
Hazzaa blasted off to the ISS on board the Soyuz spacecraft from Kazakhstan on September 25 for an eight-day stay on the orbital laboratory.
During his time on the ISS, he is conducting 16 scientific experiments, taking the Arab world on a tour of the ISS and treating his space colleagues to some Emirati cuisine.
He is also scheduled to conduct four live space-to-Earth calls, two of which he conducted on Friday and Sunday, and a live two-way radio call on Saturday.