Here are all the facts so far about UAE Mission 1: the "giant leap" for Emiratis to push the national space programme and introduce the first astronaut to raise the country's flag in space
25 September 2019| Last updated on 25 September 2019
Photo credit: The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre
For two years residents followed the story towards the historic space mission...
The UAE and the world watched the hope of the prospective astronauts, the pride of the two Emiratis selected to represent the UAE flag outside Earth, and the building excitement that came with their training for space.
Today, everyone will be watching Emirati astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori and back-up Sultan AlNeyadi as they travel to the International Space Station (ISS). He will be joined by prime crew Russian Commander Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, who is also the flight engineer. In addition to the prime crew, a backup crew will be present on-site including Reserve Emirati astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi, Russian Commander Sergey Ryzhikov, and NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn.
An outpour of overwhelming support from the UAE and around the world expresses a similar message: Astronaut AlMansoori's mission to become the UAE's first man in space is symbolic of the nation's ambitions. The remarkable milestone will open up a world of possibilities for space travel and exploration, and become a source of inspiration for young ones to dream about a future we can't even imagine.
With only hours to go until the UAE blasts off for ISS, here are 15 key facts and figures to know about UAE Mission 1, including a few fun things.
Everything you need to know about the UAE's first space launch
1. When is the UAE's first space launch?
Liftoff is timed for Wednesday September 25, 2019, at 5:56 PM GST.
2. Where is the space launch happening?
The UAE Mission 1 launch will take place at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
3. What spacecraft will be used for this mission?
They will travel to ISS onboard the Soyuz MS-15 rocket, hurtling at 13,000 kph.
Photo credit: Maxim Shipenkov
4. What does UAE's mission to space involve?
The trio will take the fast-track route to ISS, after the Soyuz MS-15 rocket completes its automated docking with the station’s Zvezda service module at an estimated 11:45 PM GST. The crew will open the hatches and float into the space station a few hours later.
UAE Mission 1 involves a series of experiments and tasks, such as fulfilling the experimental space program of Astronaut AlMansoori on behalf of the UAE, fulfill the application of Russian scientific research on an experimental space program, and it will also include various spacewalking activities.
AlMansoori will conduct 16 scientific experiments, six in microgravity and aboard the ISS, the results of which will be compared to similar experiments done on Earth:
5. When are they coming back to Earth?
AlMansoori will return to Earth on Thursday, October 3 accompanied by Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and NASA astronaut Nick Hague aboard the Soyuz MS-12 rocket. Ovchinin and Hague will remain in orbit for a 203-day mission, while Almansoori will land after eight days in space.
6. Who is Astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori?
Born in Abu Dhabi, 35-year old Emirati Hazzaa AlMansoori was selected to become the first UAE national to fly in space, as part of an agreement between UAE and Russia. The astronaut graduated from the Khalifa bin Zayed Air College and served in the UAE armed forces flying F-16 fighter jets. In 2018, he was picked to begin cosmonaut training in Russia. He also flew for various air shows including the Dubai Air Show and for UAE National Day in 2017. He is married with four children.
7. Who is Commander Oleg Skripochka?
This marks the third time in space for 49-year old Russian Commander Oleg Skripochka. He took off to ISS in October 2011, has taken three space walks, and logged in a total of 331 days on the station. Skripochka holds his country's highest honour as a "Hero of the Russian Federation". He is married with a son and a daughter.
8. Who is Flight Engineer Jessica Meir?
Another first: 42-year old NASA astronaut Jessica Meir will be the first Swedish woman in space, as she is mixed Swedish, America, and Jewish Iraqi/Israeli. An accomplished biologist, Meir was selected for astronaut training at NASA in 2013. A skilled musician, it is said she will be taking her piccolo flute to the space station.
From left to right: Hazzaa AlMansoori, Oleg Skripochka, and Jessica Meir
Photo credit: @astro_hazzaa | Twitter
9. Who is back-up Astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi?
Sultan Al Neyadi a 38-year-old Doctor of Information Technology and former engineer for the UAE Armed Forces.
10. How was the selection process for the UAE’s first astronaut?
In December 2017, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, launched the UAE Astronaut Programme to find the country’s first astronaut.
Emiratis from a wide range of backgrounds applied, with 4,022 men and women between 17 - 67 years old hopefuls. After a series of training, testing, and interviews, over 4,000 applicants came down to two. AlMansoori was announced as the prime astronaut in April, and Dr, Al Neyadi as the back-up.
11. What will the UAE Mission 1 crew do before launch?
Despite months of training and relying on advanced mathematics, engineering, and physics to travel safely into space, there are also a bunch of superstitious, quirky activities they do beforehand.
Before they leave the astronauts' hotel, space crews typically perform a series of pre-launch rituals for luck: signing their name on the hotel door, going for a haircut instead of seeing their rocket, watching the 1969 space Russian movie "White Sun of the Desert", listening to 70s rock music particularly "Grass by the House" by Zemlyane, and choosing a plush toy.
Why a cuddly, cute toy? It's their zero-gravity indicator, or "Zero-Ge Indicator", letting them know they're in space once the toy begins floating rather than hanging by a string.
12. What will the UAE astronauts take with them to space?
AlMansoori will be bringing 10 kg worth of cargo into space, courtesy of Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, with items related to the UAE's heritage and culture including:
- UAE flag and logos, which will either be placed in museums or distributed to the UAE's leadership upon their return to Earth
- 30 Al Ghaf tree seeds will be planted in celebration of the Year of Tolerance
- AlMansoori's personal items such as family photos, a selected cuddly toy, and more
- A special space menu consisting of halal Emirati food
- Photo of the UAE Founding Father Sheikh Zayed with a delegation of Apollo astronauts, taken in 1976
- A copy of the book "My Story", written by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai
- A copy of the book "The Race to Space" by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre
- Materials for scientific space experiments to be held at ISS
- 3 award-winning entries covering poetry, stories, and paintings that were submitted to MBRSC
13. How have the UAE astronauts prepared for the space mission?
Both AlMansoori and Al Neyadi underwent nearly a year's intensive training.
They started by learning the Russian language at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Moscow - a key skill to be able to communicate with ground control and fellow crew.
They also had daily visits to the gym to achieve and maintain peak fitness for space, and they both spent time in a human centrifuge, a huge spinning arm that rotates at a speed of 96kph to simulate the g-force of lift-off. It circulates blood away from the brain, causing it to pool towards the lower end of the body resulting in loss of consciousness.
The tests worked to raise the endurance of the astronauts, with special suits and seats designed to prevent blood from settling in their legs.
Special breathing techniques were taught so they can deal with the stress caused by g-forces, and they learned ISS evacuation protocols and how to deal with various emergencies.
Further survival training at Star City enables them to learn how to fend for themselves in freezing temperatures in the case of a crash landing at a cold, hostile environment.
Photo credit: Dubai Media Office
14. What will he eat while in space?
Space Food Laboratory, a Russian company that supplies astronaut food for people to eat on Earth, has prepared a traditional Emirati menu for the journey.
While away from home, AlMansoori will enjoy Emirati dishes including canned halal salon - a chicken stew - the pounded meat and rice dish madrouba, and balaleet - sweetened vermicelli cooked with an omelette - for breakfast.
15. What will AlMansoori wear in outer space?
A custom Sokol space suit and he will sit in a bespoke Soyuz seat during launch and on his return home.