Dubai: UAE school students asked Emirati astronaut Hazzaa AlMansouri how he eats and sleeps in space, among other questions, during a live radio call between Dubai’s Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday.
AlMansouri became the UAE’s first astronaut after lifting off from Kazakhstan last Wednesday for the ISS in Earth’s orbit. On Friday, he held a video conference with UAE students as well as His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, at MBRSC.
On Saturday, during the call, which lasted around 10 minutes, around seven Emirati students managed to ask Al Mansouri a variety of questions. The eighth student, who had asked about the astronaut’s feelings before the launch, did not receive a response as the call ended, despite several attempts to get through again.
When asked about his daily routine, AlMansouri said there is a timetable and tasks for each “day” – ISS goes through 16 sunrises and sunsets in a day’s worth of time on Earth. AlMansoori explained to them that the day starts at 6 GMT, when they receive a daily schedule from the ground stations. “After which, we are given an opportunity to start our personal activities; where we shower and take care of our personal hygiene. Each astronaut aboard the ISS has a different schedule, but we can cooperate on some missions and work together,” said AlMansoori.
After breakfast, everyone on ISS goes about their responsibilities for the day.
He assured another student there was plenty of food on board, which is also sent up from Earth periodically.
There is also medicine for all kinds of illness, although the ISS is “disease free”, the UAE astronaut told a third student.
‘Needs more salt’
When asked about space food, Al Mansouri said the meals could use more salt, pepper and sugar to his liking. He also pointed out that drinking liquids in the microgravity of space is less straightforward and the beverages don’t go down as quickly as on Earth.
“Astronaut food is limited to a specific number of calories for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This number is calculated at the ground stations, and food is then sent accordingly to the ISS every two weeks. However, there is spare food in case of failure in arrival,” he added.
What does he do in his free time?
Al Mansouri said he hardly gets any spare time but he when he does, he likes to take in the out-of-this-world views of the Earth, especially the beauty of the UAE when the ISS passes over it.
He also loves floating about the ISS and sleeping in space. Attending the event were students, families and officials. Anuradha Nair, a grade 11 student of The Indian High School, Dubai, said the QnA shed light on many of her queries about living in space.
“I liked the event. Everyone at our school is following Hazzaa and many of us are attending these interactive sessions, which are happening for the first in the UAE,” she added.
Abdul Hamid Al Awadhi, an Emirati employee of Emirates Post Group said it was interesting to see people talk over radio rather than through mobile phones.
“I think radio communication still has its place on Earth, like when you go fishing on the open sea or hunting in the desert. There’s even an association about it in the UAE,” Al Awadhi said.
Later in the day, he spoke to MBRSC again. AlMansoori explained to them that the day starts at 6 GMT, when they receive a daily schedule from the ground stations. “After which, we are given an opportunity to start our personal activities; where we shower and take care of our personal hygiene. Each astronaut aboard the ISS has a different schedule, but we can cooperate on some missions and work together,” said AlMansoori.
“I’m filming everything on the ISS, and these videos will be uploaded to YouTube as well as other communication channels,” said AlMansoori.
When asked about how he sleeps, AlMansoori responded, “Some astronauts enjoy sleeping with their bodies attached to a wall in ISS, others enjoy sleeping while floating. As for me, I enjoy sleeping while floating”.
AlMansoori also spoke to Dr. Hanan AlSuwaidi, the flight surgeon for the mission, who is following his medical status throughout his time in space.
Daily scientific missions
On day three, AlMansoori continued working on an experiment on Fluidics (fluid dynamics in space) in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA), to observe how liquids move in weightlessness. After which, he began the experiments involving schools in the UAE as part of MBRSC’s Science in Space initiative.
AlMansoori will also perform three daily experiments to observe the impact of microgravity on seed germination rates, the growth of aquatic organisms, and the oxidisation rates of steel.
Furthermore, AlMansoori will conduct experiments to study Brain DTI, Osteology, motor control, time perception in microgravity, Fluidics (fluid dynamics in space), and DNAm-Age.