A Historic Step for Emirati Scientific Achievement in Space

22 September 2019
A Historic Step for Emirati Scientific Achievement in Space

Since the foundation of the UAE Space Agency just over five year ago, we have been rigorously preparing for this special moment - the launch of the first Emirati astronaut into space, a historic achievement and the marker of the UAE’s next phase of space exploration and scientific excellence.

On 25 September at 5:56 PM, Hazza al Mansouri, the first Emirati astronaut, will be launched to the International Space Station (ISS), making the UAE the 19th country to visit the ISS and the 38th to participate in a human spaceflight mission. Al Mansouri will stay on the station for an eight-day space expedition as part of the UAE Astronaut Program.

As he departs the Earth’s atmosphere from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Al Mansouri will be propelled not only into space, but also into history – serving forever as an inspiration to all Emiratis and young people throughout the Middle East.

While aboard the ISS, Al Mansouri will participate in five video calls with Emirati youths and the wider public, during which he will answer questions about his journey, life aboard the space station and the various experiments that he will be conducting.

This direct communication between Al Mansouri and young Emiratis from across the UAE will not only motivate our next generation of space pioneers but highlight the critical importance of investing in space science and exploration as means to accelerating our nation’s development and contributing to humanity’s efforts to address the Earth’s most pressing challenges in food security, energy efficiency, resource utilization, and climate change, to name only a few.

It is fitting that this revival of an ancient Arabian legacy in space exploration and astronomy is being pioneered by the UAE. Our visionary leadership’s interest in space science dates back to the mid-1970s, when Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan met three Apollo 17 astronauts and declared to the entire world that there is no limit to the UAE's ambition.

We are today one step closer to realizing our Founding Father’s dream of establishing the UAE as an international leader in space, humanity’s final frontier.

Al Mansouri’s mission will pave the way for future generations to explore space, conduct advanced scientific experimentation and collaborate with nation’s from around the world to improve life on Earth.

Aboard the ISS, Al Mansouri will conduct and monitor 16 biological, physical and geological experiments in the ISS’s microgravity environment. The results of his work will then be compared with replicated experiments performed on Earth.

This will not only advance the UAE’s scientific and research capabilities but provide new data and materials to be incorporated into curriculums at institutions of higher education across our nation, driving the sector forward and better preparing the students of tomorrow to meet future challenges.

The experiments that Al Mansouri is going to conduct aboard the ISS include: studying the effect of microgravity on the growth of cells, microorganisms and genes, seed germination rates, fungi, algae, antibiotics on bacteria, and basic chemical reactions in space. Additionally, Al Mansouri is going to monitor and conduct tests on the palm seeds that were sent to the ISS in July 2019, to observe the seeds’ behaviour, their ability to absorb water in zero gravity and examine the potential for planting them in a Martian environment.

He will also be involved in an experiment on time perception in microgravity using virtual reality glasses to participate in pre-set exercises that measure time perception and speed in space compared to perception on Earth.

Al Mansouri will bring back enormous amounts of data and be able to share his experiences with new audiences, as the first astronaut from the Arab region to participate in such research. His findings will contribute to our long-term objective of establishing human settlements on Mars.

Whilst being aboard the ISS, Al Mansouri will provide a detailed tour of the station in Arabic so that Emiratis and Arabic speakers from all walks of life can experience his journey as if they were with him.

Al Mansouri’s mission is a historic achievement for the UAE and the entire Arab World. There may only be two other people accompanying him in the Soyuz rocket, but he will carry with him the prayers and dreams of millions around the world.