Hazzaa Al Mansoori and Sultan AlNeyadi underwater at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) Image Credit: Dubai Media Office

Dubai: Emirati astronauts Hazzaa Al Mansoori and Sultan AlNeyadi are in the thick of their training at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, in preparation for future space missions, including space walks.

In a video tweeted by the Dubai Media Office on Monday, Al Mansoori and AlNeyadi were shown underwater at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) doing manoeuvres mimicking the environment in space.

“Hazzaa and Sultan continue their journey at Johnson Space Centre. They underwent NBL training, one of the best methods to prepare astronauts for spacewalks,” tweeted DMO.

NBL is an astronaut training facility, featuring a large indoor pool of water designed to provide neutral buoyancy to simulate the microgravity that astronauts would experience during spaceflight.

“Neutral buoyancy is the equal tendency of an object to sink or float. NBL is used to develop flight procedures, verify hardware compatibility, train astronauts, and refinespacewalks procedures,” DMO added.

Al Mansoori and AlNeyadi did the complex underwater training – which lasted for six hours – wearing heavy space suits while making their way at the NBL that contains full-scale mock-ups of the International Space Station (ISS) modules and payloads.

Six hours under water

AlNeyadi tweeted: “A sense of excitement and seriousness is present every time we train in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab #NBL. This complex and physically demanding training can last up to six hours under water, where we simulate space walks outside the ISS. One step closer for another achievement.”

What Al Mansoori and AlNeyadi did was called extravehicular activity (EVA) or spacewalk, an activity done by an astronaut or cosmonaut outside a spacecraft beyond Earth’s atmosphere. The term is also used for lunar surface exploration or moonwalk.

Future space missions

The training by the Emirati astronauts, which started last year, is a collaboration between the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBSRC) and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Two more Emirati astronauts, who are yet to be announced, are expected to join Al Mansoori and AlNeyadi.

Under the programme, the astronauts will be trained to manage various missions on the ISS, including simulated spacewalks and long duration stay, along with training in major systems, robotics, extravehicular activity, T-38 jet courses, water and land survival, Russian language skills and theoretical training.

Al Mansoori and Al Neyadi had earlier trained at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Moscow, in September 2018 before Al Mansoori became the first UAE astronaut who was sent to the ISS.