Will miss my friends, nephews the most: UAE’s first analog astronaut AlAmeri

Saleh AlAmeri sees first manned mission to Mars in 5-10 years.


Waheed Abbas

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Published: Thu 4 Nov 2021, 2:46 PM

Last updated: Thu 4 Nov 2021, 5:26 PM

The UAE’s first analog astronaut Saleh AlAmeri, who began his mission that simulates the journey to Mars on November 4, says he will miss his friends, colleagues and children in his family the most during this eight-month long project.

AlAmeri and Abdalla AlHammadi were the first Emirati analog astronauts selected for the mission on August 15, 2021. They will remain in isolation for eight months in a facility in Russia to know its impact on the human body and psychology for future space missions to the moon and Mars.

“I and Abdalla are ready for the training and isolation as part of this mission,” AlAmeri told Khaleej Times in an interview from Moscow just before its start. “After the selection, we received training in Dubai and then we also had intensive training for 12 hours daily in Moscow to make sure that we are ready for the mission. Part of our training was learning Russian language, psychological and physical training and there was medical examination.”

AlAmeri has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Khalifa University and is a certified vibration analyst from the Mobius Institute.

With over six years of experience in his field, AlAmeri was working as a mechanical engineer with Adnoc.

His team won the second place in the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge 2015, designing the first of its kind solar car in the Arab world that had a mileage of 1,200km.

Starting Thursday, Al Hammadi and Al Ameri will take on the eight-month journey to simulate space-like conditions on Earth in partnership with Nasa and the Russian IBMP Institute.

The mission will take place at the NEK ground-based analogue facility in Moscow. There will be participants from different countries. It is part of the Scientific International Research in Unique Terrestrial Station (SIRIUS) 20/21 and will focus on studying the effects of long-duration isolation and confinement on human psychology and physiology.

Missing my friends, nephews

The UAE’s analog astronauts have been away from their friends and families since early September when they reached Moscow to prepare for the mission.

“I was in contact with my family and friends, talking to them,” said AlAmeri. “God willing, even within the isolation facility, there will be a communication option to talk to our beloved ones. I am not worried about these things. My focus and priority are to complete the mission successfully and to represent the UAE and the region.”

AlAmeri revealed that this is not the first time that he has been staying away from the family.

“During my studies at Khalifa University, I stayed in Japan for six months,” he pointed out. “I was working on a senior project. And I am a National Service graduate. I stayed away for 16 months. This experience is not new to me."

But AlAmeri says he will miss friends including Mohammed bin Rashid, roommate AlHammadi, his colleagues and nephews.

Manned Mars mission in 5-10 years

AlAmeri noted that sending missions to Mars is not a big challenge with advancements in the space sector. Citing examples, he said the UAE, the US and China have recently sent missions to Mars successfully.

"We have a good picture of sending things to Mars,” he said. “We are doing this study to know the impact on psychology, muscles and bones and to prepare a human for future space flights to Moon and Mars. In 5 to 10 years, we will see some people going to Mars.” He hoped that the first one to go Mars will be an Emirati.

AlAmeri noted that this is the first analog mission but it will not be the last one. “We are looking forward to become experts and pioneers in the human research programme. In the future, we will try to involve more and develop new projects, which will be beneficial for the other sectors like medical, science and education,” he pointed out. “We are lucky that we get support from leaders and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre management.”


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