2 Emiratis selected for 8-month mission that simulates journey to Mars

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Dubai - Abdallah AlHammadi and Saleh AlAmeri will be part of the UAE Analog Mission#1

By Team KT

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Published: Sun 15 Aug 2021, 6:05 PM

Last updated: Sun 15 Aug 2021, 8:45 PM

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has announced the first Emirati analog astronauts.

Abdallah AlHammadi and Saleh AlAmeri will be part of the UAE Analog Mission#1. The mission is part of the Scientific International Research in Unique Terrestrial Station (SIRIUS) SIRIUS 20/21, an eight-month analog mission that will be conducted at the NEK ground-based analogue facility in Moscow, Russia, later this year.

The candidates (one primary and one backup) will be part of the mission’s CrewONE team. The mission will study the effects of isolation and confinement on human psychology, physiology and team dynamics to help prepare for long-duration space exploration.

Abdallah AlHammadi

He has been part of the UAE Armed Forces for the past 17 years and is currently the crew chief of the Maintenance Department.

He has a foundation degree in aerospace engineering from the Manchester Metropolitan and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Abu Dhabi University.

Saleh AlAmeri

Saleh 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 is currently working as a mechanical engineer with ADNOC.

AlAmeri’s team had won 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.

Selection process

The MBRSC had received 172 applications for the posts, and the applicants underwent various phases of evaluations. Women accounted for 62 per cent of the candidates, with the youngest being a 25-year-old female and the oldest a 40-year-old male.

The two successful candidates were chosen based on subsequent selection rounds and interviews.

The analog astronauts are currently undergoing in-house training, which includes training on the experiments proposed by principal investigators from local universities and Russian language training in preparation for the SIRIUS 20/21 mission.

The isolation mission

An international mission set to be conducted in the NEK facility in Moscow, the SIRIUS series’ primary purpose is to understand the effects of isolation and confinement on the human body.

As part of the mission, crewmembers are isolated and given certain tasks, which they need to do without communicating to the outside world. The mission simulates the various stages and scenarios of a manned mission to Mars, including launch, orbit, landing, and return.

The SIRIUS programme features a multi-cultural crew that could potentially undertake sustainable missions to Mars or other space exploration missions. Such missions are integral to gaining a comprehensive understanding of how human beings react physically when in isolation and the impact isolation has on the bodies of people in an enclosed space.

The UAE’s participation in the SIRIUS mission will play a key role in developing Emirati capabilities and contribute to the development of the Mars 2117 Programme, which aims to establish human colonies on the Red Planet by 2117.

New era of space exploration

Yousuf Hamad AlShaibani, Director-General, MBRSC said: “We are entering a new era of space exploration in the UAE, and we are proud to have Abdallah AlHammadi and Saleh AlAmeri join our team at MBRSC to further our pursuit in this field.

“The UAE’s participation in the analog mission also reaffirms and continues our rich legacy of collaborative efforts that will help benefit humankind and ensure the sustained growth of the global space economy.”

Adnan AlRais, Mars 2117 Programme Manager, MBRSC, said: “The analog mission is a critically important programme that is essential to keep astronauts safe and healthy during long-duration spaceflights. Through our participation, we will be able to contribute to understanding the science behind such missions. It will also provide crucial data that will help us undertake more ambitious space exploration challenges including for the Mars 2117 Programme.”

Research from UAE varsities selected for mission

A total of 15 universities from the UAE have submitted research papers, out of which five entries from four were selected.

One of the proposed research studies selected for the mission is from the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences. It focuses on understanding how prolonged exposure to a space analog environment affects cardiovascular variability and cardiopostural interactions.

The research topic selected from the University of Sharjah proposes a study to delineate the effects of stress induced by confinement and isolation on circulatory and skeletal muscle function of crew members during the mission.

Other topics selected for the mission include the American University of Sharjah’s research on the mitigation of mental stress in isolation and confined environments; and the United Arab Emirates University’s research on the psychological challenges of isolation during human spaceflight.

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