UAE announces details of first long-duration Arab astronaut mission

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Dubai's Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) have announced the details of the second crewed mission of the UAE Astronaut Program to the International Space Station (ISS),

Set to launch on February 26th at 11.07am, the mission marks the first long-duration Arab astronaut mission with Sultan al-Neyadi as the primary astronaut and Hazzaa al-Mansoori as the backup.

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Dubbed as Crew-6, the mission will launch aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Along with Emirati astronaut Sultan al-Neyadi as the Mission Specialist, the crew includes NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, state news agency WAM reported on Thursday.

Speaking at an event unveiling details of the launch at Dubai’s Museum of the Future, al-Mansoori said: “Guided by the vision of our wise leadership, the UAE’s space sector has grown significantly over the past decade, with major achievements, including the Emirates Mars Mission, the Emirates Lunar Mission and the upcoming first long-duration Arab astronaut mission. As we look to the future, we are committed to building on this momentum and expanding the capabilities of our space program and our astronauts.”

“As part of the UAE Astronaut Program, we have created a sustainable ecosystem that is set to further enhance our understanding of space. Moreover, from uncrewed planetary missions, we are building on the possibility of crewed missions to space and beyond.”

The mission will make the UAE the 11th country to send astronauts on a long-duration mission to the ISS as well as train and prepare them for spacewalks.

Adancing understanding of space

Salem Al Marri, Director-General of MBRSC, said long-duration space missions play a crucial role in “advancing our understanding of space and our ability to explore and utilize it in the future.”

He added: “Five years down the line, we have not only flown the first Emirati astronaut Hazzaa al-Mansoori to space, but are also set to send Sultan al-Neyadi, from the first batch of the UAE Astronaut Program, into space for a period of six months.”

Crew-6 is part of Expedition 69, with Roscosmos Cosmonauts Nikolai Chub and Oleg Kononenko, and NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara joining the team at later dates.

Expedition 69 will potentially continue to install the final pieces of iROSA, the roll-out solar arrays on the International Space Station, in addition to conducting scientific experiments and research.

The backup for Crew-6 comprises Emirati Astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori (Mission Specialist), NASA’s Jasmin Moghbeli (Spacecraft Commander), ESA’s Andreas Mogensen (Pilot) and Roscosmos’ Konstantin Borisov (Mission Specialist).

Once onboard the ISS, Sultan will have a heavy schedule of experiments and dedicated time for live interactions with various entities, universities and schools. There will be 13 live calls and 10 ham radio interactions, and sessions for the community outreach program with Emirates Literature Foundation, which will be allocated throughout the six months.

The Director General of MBRSC unveiled the UAE Mission 2 patch logo while paying tribute to the UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

The Director General of MBRSC unveiled the UAE Mission 2 patch logo which captures Sultan al-Neyadi as he is looking up to Sheikh Zayed, against the backdrop of the International Space Station, Earth and space. (Supplied: WAM)
The Director General of MBRSC unveiled the UAE Mission 2 patch logo which captures Sultan al-Neyadi as he is looking up to Sheikh Zayed, against the backdrop of the International Space Station, Earth and space. (Supplied: WAM)

Inspired by the first mission logo patch, the second mission patch captures Sultan al-Neyadi as he is looking up to Sheikh Zayed, against the backdrop of the International Space Station, Earth and space.

The logo signifies the six-month mission’s crucial role in advancing our understanding of space. The mission will add scientific value and find practical benefits to improve sustainability and efficiency back home.

Scientific research

During his 4,000 hours onboard ISS, Sultan al-Neyadi will conduct over 19 advanced research experiments and studies in collaboration with NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) on a range of topics that include: the cardiovascular system, back pain, technical demonstration, epigenetics, immune system, fluid science, plant biology, material science, sleep analysis and radiation.

The mission will further comprise education outreach and engagement efforts to inspire the next generation of scientists and explorers. As part of the UAE Astronaut Program Grants Research Program, MBRSC has selected two research projects from the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU), that will also be part of the Crew-6 mission.

The first project will focus on assessing how the spaceflight environment of microgravity affects cardio-postural interactions, while the second project will investigate dental/oral cells in a microgravity-simulated environment on the ground. Both projects will engage students and researchers to ensure the capability development and qualification of new generations of scientists. In addition to MBRU, data sharing from the mission will include prominent local universities such as NYU Abu Dhabi and others.

Quarantine before launch

Both al-Neyadi and al-Mansoori will undergo a two-week quarantine before launch, in preparation for the mission.

The astronauts of Crew-6 mission will then travel to Kennedy Space Center six days before the launch. A day before the launch, the crew will try on their tailored spacesuits and conduct a dry rehearsal of going up to the launch site, entering the capsule and conducting all checks to confirm everything is in order.

Speaking on the upcoming mission, Sultan al-Neyadi said: “With the second mission to the ISS, we are raising the limits of our ambitions and raising the UAE flag ever higher. This mission presents a unique chance for the UAE to contribute to the international space community and advance our understanding of the universe. I am grateful for the support and training provided by NASA and our international partners, and I am excited to create new milestones together during this mission.”

“We are going to space to raise the limits of our ambitions and keep the flag of the UAE flying high. All these are for future generations, for whom a promising and auspicious future awaits,” he added.

Hazzaa al-Mansoori spoke about what it means to be the first to travel to the ISS. "Being an astronaut from the UAE and the Arab world means being part of something bigger than yourself. It means dedicating your life to exploring the unknown and pushing the boundaries in the fields of space and science. It is a privilege and an honour to have had the opportunity to represent my nation and humanity in the vastness of space. Sultan’s mission to the International Space Station is a continuation of this incredible journey of discovery and exploration.”

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