'I'm now the backup': UAE astronaut Hazzaa Al Mansouri promises to stay in touch with Sultan Al Neyadi during 6-month space mission

Al Mansouri expressed his unwavering support for his colleague, revealing the challenges he might face during his time at the International Space Station and how to tackle them


Nandini Sircar

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FILE. UAE astronauts Hazzaa Al Mansouri (L) and Sultan Al Neyadi (R).
FILE. UAE astronauts Hazzaa Al Mansouri (L) and Sultan Al Neyadi (R).

Published: Thu 2 Feb 2023, 6:27 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Mar 2023, 12:38 PM

UAE's two pioneering astronauts would keep in touch every day as Sultan Al Neyadi prepares for his six months stay at the International Space Station (ISS). Major Hazzaa Al Mansouri has expressed unwavering support to his colleague and said he would speak to Al Neyadi daily while the latter is on the long-haul mission.

The launch of the second mission of the UAE Astronaut Programme that will carry Al Neyadi to the International Space Station onboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is scheduled for no earlier than February 26, 2023.

Maj Mansouri's role after the launch will be at the Mission Control Centre in Houston. "From there, I can communicate with him daily and make sure that he's going through the training regime, experiments and the (daily) schedule, and making sure that he's doing well in general," says Al Mansouri.

Speaking to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the press conference, the first Emirati astronaut reiterated that the next six months would not be sort of a marathon for Al Neyadi.

It's going to be a marathon

Astronaut Hazzaa Al Mansouri, who went to space in September 2019, says, "He was there for me in the first mission. He supported me, and he was in the backup crew. Today I am in the backup group supporting him in his mission. It's going to be a long-duration mission. So, the pacing is important. It is not going to be like a sprint. It's going to be like a marathon. He also has to make sure that he reserves his energy for the entire period of six months."

Mansouri also has an advice for Al Neyadi: "Make sure you enjoy it up there. You're doing something unique; you are doing something that only a few people have had the chance to do it. So, make sure you enjoy it. Please share it with your kids and with your family. Also, make sure you enjoy doing experiments and different things."

The mission, dubbed Crew-6, will include a series of experiments, research, and important scientific findings about outer space. During the mission, Al Neyadi will conduct numerous in-depth and advanced scientific experiments as part of the 'UAE Astronaut Programme,' which will train and prepare a team of Emirati astronauts before sending them into space to carry out various scientific missions.

He also underlines upon returning home, crews need to readapt to Earth's gravity. This transition from one gravity field to another is trickier than it sounds.

Mansouri said, "After coming back, he will face some challenges. There will be physical discomfort in adapting to gravity on the ground. But he will go through different types of rehabilitation to make sure that he's up to speed again — so that he can walk again because, coming from space, you cannot walk on the second day or third or even the fourth day. You need a couple of sessions with special instructors to ensure you can walk again. Normally after returning, you cannot drive for the first couple of weeks because it's going to be challenging to drive."

Narrating one of the queer struggles he experienced while in space, Al Mansouri said he had a tough time tying shoelaces. But now that he figured out how to do it, he has shared the trick with his colleague.

He said, "Tying the shoelaces was one of the challenging parts for me initially, but I told him (Al Neyadi) the trick, and hopefully, he can follow it. I told him, 'don't hold your legs to handrails or try to hold your body to anything. So just let go, float and do it when you are floating'."


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