UAE astronaut's historic mission: All you need to know

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For eight days, Al Mansoori will be staying at the International Space Station (ISS) where there is zero gravity.



By Sarwat Nasir (Reporting from Moscow)

Published: Thu 5 Sep 2019, 11:29 PM

When the UAE's first Emirati astronaut Hazza Al Mansoori signed up for his space mission, he was well aware that his accommodation outside of Earth won't match the top-class hospitality of five-star hotels his home country is famous for.
For eight days, he'll be staying at the International Space Station (ISS) where there is zero gravity, which makes some of the most ordinary daily tasks very complicated.
Khaleej Times has been reporting from Moscow and Star City, Russia, where we interviewed Al Mansoori and his back-up, Sultan Al Neyadi, about their preparations as the launch date is just three weeks away.
KT also took a tour of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, where we saw replicas of the ISS and the Soyuz spacecraft from which the UAE's astronaut will be launching on September 25.

Where is he staying?
Al Mansoori will be residing at the Russian side of the ISS which accounts for 40 per cent of the entire station. According to Nasa, the habitable volume of the ISS is 388 cubic metres (572sqft), which is about the size of a small studio apartment in International City, Dubai.
The first crew to go to the ISS was in 2001, but there are always ongoing repairs and maintenance on board to keep the station safe for the astronauts.
The UAE also has an agreement with Nasa to allow Al Mansoori to use their side of the ISS while he's there. However, he'll be sleeping at the Russian segment.
How will he get there?
He will be launching in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that will lift off at 5.56pm (UAE time) on September 25. It's a small, three-seater spacecraft, and he will be joined by American astronaut Jessica Meir and Russian commander Oleg Skripochka.
The crew will have to brace for a 'direct flight' that is expected to take six hours.
If their spacecraft fails to properly dock itself to the ISS, the astronauts will be required to circle around the Earth for several days until they find another docking opportunity.
When it docks, Al Mansoori will officially become the first Arab to go to the station.
Where is the toilet?
There is a silver can, about the size of a bucket, where astronauts urinate in. To ensure it doesn't float away, there are suction tubes that collect it. After a week, the content is recycled into drinking water. For other business in the bathroom, there is a smaller hole on the can astronauts can use. That waste is stored and sent towards the Earth's atmosphere to burn out.
What will he eat?
Astronauts are provided with dehydrated food, which becomes edible after warm water is added. There are also meals that have been liquefied and stored in tubes.
For Al Mansoori, traditional halal Emirati dishes were prepared. He will be eating madrouba (rice and chicken), saluna (fish) and balaleet (a sweet vermicelli dish). But these items have also been put in tubes and cans.
How will he brush his teeth?
Al Mansoori has two options when it comes to brushing his teeth. First, he can use edible toothpaste and then swallow the liquid afterwards. However, he can also spit it out in a small bag. Like other excess liquid on the station, this will also be recycled as drinking water.
Where will he sleep?
On the ISS, there are beds that are strapped to the walls of the station and some to the floor. There are strap-on belts available so the astronaut doesn't float away. However, astronauts can't really feel the sensation of lying down in zero gravity.
How will he shower?
There are no showers on the ISS. Astronauts have pouches filled with liquid soap, water and rinse-less shampoo. They use a small straw attached to it as a dispenser. There is a recycling system installed inside the ISS that traps excess water and recycles it.


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