As the United Arab Emirates prepare to send their first astronaut into space today, aboard a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft leaving from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, here is some useful information about the launch.
1. The choice of the first Emirati astronaut: a selective operation
In late 2017, Cheick Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the United Arab Emirates and Emir of Dubai, launched the United Arab Emirates Astronaut Program to find out who would be the first man from the country to travel into space. A total of 4,022 men and women aged 17 to 67 years conducted training sessions, tests, and interviews.
Among the two finalists, Hazza Al Mansouri, a 34-year-old former military pilot and Sultan Al Neyadi, an information technology doctor and 38-year-old former engineer with the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, Major Al Mansouri was finally selected in April as the main astronaut. Dr. Al Neyadi has obtained the position of substitute.
2. Intensive astronaut preparation
For nearly a year, the astronaut and his substitute underwent intense training for this eight-day mission.
First of all, linguistics training, with the learning of the Russian language, an essential condition for communicating with the ground control center and the other crew members.
A physical training then, since in addition to daily visits to the gym to stay in shape, the pair spent time in a human centrifuge, a huge rotating arm that rotates at a speed of 96 km / h to simulate the force of gravity lifting which is three times that of gravity on Earth.
Finally, survival training. The astronauts learned specific breathing techniques to deal with the stress caused by acceleration forces, how to manage ISS evacuations and other emergency situations. Similarly, Major Al Mansouri and Dr. Al Neyadi spent three days in a forest to learn how to survive in harsh winter conditions, in the event of a hard landing in a hostile environment.
3. Major Al Mansouri in space: a decisive mission
Accompanied by Russian Commander Oleg Skripochka and American astronaut Jessica Meir, Major Al Mansouri will carry with him several items related to the heritage, culture, and history of the United Arab Emirates. Among these items, the flag and logos of the country, which will be placed in museums or distributed to UAE leaders when the Major returns to Earth, thirty seeds of Al Ghaf trees to be planted to celebrate the year of tolerance, crumbled food, which will be served to the rest of the ISS as part of a cultural exchange but also a photo of the United Arab Emirates founding father Sheikh Zayed with a delegation of Apollo astronauts, taken in 1976.
All will then board the Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan two hours before being cleared for takeoff at 17:56 United Arab Emirates time. They will travel about 400 km to the ISS and arrive around midnight.
In addition to his role onboard the Soyuz space shuttle as the second flight engineer of Jessica Meir and Oleg Skripochka, Major Al Mansouri will conduct 16 scientific experiments throughout his mission, including those related to the human body and those related to the effect of microgravity on cell growth. Six of them will be conducted in microgravity onboard the ISS, the results of which will be compared to those obtained on Earth. This is enough to bring new elements to scientific research.