Raumfahrt - UAE to ISS: Why the International Space Station matters to us in the UAE


UAE’s Hazza Al Mansouri is the 240th visitor to the space station


This is the first report in a 10-day countdown for the launch of UAE’s first man in space.


Dubai: Ten days from now, astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri will head to where no Emirati has gone before — literally reach beyond the skies and live on-board the International Space Station (ISS).

Al Mansouri’s expedition to space is an ambitious national mission realised in less than two years of planning and training.

His eight-day stay on the largest man-made structure outside Earth will make him the 240th visitor to the space station and the UAE as the 19th visiting country.

Al Mansouri carries on his shoulders the dreams of a young nation “who break barriers and prove that there is no power strong enough to stand in their way”. His trip paves the way for many more Emiratis to reach the ISS and beyond, to even establish a city on Mars by 2117.


Sources: NASA | Image: NASA | ©Graphic NewsImage Credit: ©Gulf News

But why is this mission critical? How do exploring and studying space impact us?

Michael Flachbart, who worked for nearly 30 years at the US Space and Rocket Centre (USSRC), the official Nasa Visitor Information Centre for the Marshall Space Flight Centre, said there are more direct results of space science around us than we actually think.

“It’s important to go to space for a number of reasons. Humans for centuries have been explorers. People have explored continents, oceans; they’ve travelled [far and wide]. So this is the ocean of space and they’re exploring that,” Flachbart, now the strategic consultant of Compass International in Dubai, told Gulf News.

“It’s also the technology that gets developed from the space programmes — whether that’s satellites that look back down on earth that look at environmental issues or weather satellites or communication satellites that improve life on earth, and many more,” Flachbart added.

What is the International Space Station (ISS)?

The ISS is the only place in space where humans can live in and survive. It’s a huge spacecraft that orbits Earth at an altitude of around 400km, considered as low earth orbit (LEO). It shares space with many satellites, most of which are at 600km. The UAE’s KhalifaSat, for example, is at 613km LEO.

Technically, the ISS is a giant floating space laboratory. It can house six astronauts or cosmonauts at one time who conduct scientific experiments for their sending countries.

How was the ISS built in space?

The ISS is the largest multi-nation construction project of mankind. It was built in phases throughout a 13-year period. Russia contributed the first piece of the station, a module called Zarya. Modules called nodes are pressurised spheres connected together like a giant Lego piece, each having a specific function. The other modules are Unity, Zvezda, Z1, Destiny, Harmony, Columbus, Kibo, Leonardo, among others.

How long has the ISS been in orbit?

The ISS was launched to space in November 1998. The first three-man crew to live on the space station, however, came two years later in 2000.

Space Station commander Bill Shepherd from the US led the Expedition 1 crew with Soyuz commander Yuri Gidzenko and flight engineer Sergei Krikalev, both from Russia.

They stayed on the station for four months before returning to Earth when their replacement astronauts from Expedition 2 took over.

How long it does it take to reach ISS?

Expedition 1 arrived at the orbital outpost on November 2, two days after launch on October 31, marking the beginning of continuous human presence on the ISS.

With advances in technology and precision steering of the Soyuz capsule over various orbits, the flight time has now been drastically cut down to nearly six hours. This means it takes less time to reach the ISS from Earth than it is flying from Dubai to London.

Who have been there? (See graphic)

US has the biggest number of astronauts who have visited the station with 150 people. Nasa astronaut Jessica Meir, who is launching to the ISS for the first time on September 25, will be the 152nd. Russia comes in second with 48 cosmonauts.

What do astronauts do on the ISS?

Astronauts stay on this orbiting laboratory for are noble reason — to conduct experiments that cannot be done on earth.

Basically, these astronauts are space heroes as they conduct most of these experiments on themselves. They are literally the guinea pigs in these space experiments. This is aside from the other cellular, molecular, plant and animal species they study.



When humans go to space, they are subjected to extreme conditions that put tremendous stress on the body due to weightlessness. According to research published by Nasa, prolonged stay in space could lead to a decrease in bone density and strength, loss of muscle mass, change of muscle performance, increased kidney stones and bone fractures, among others.

Microgravity also affects body fluids as they are redistributed away from the extremities. Most at risk is the human heart that is also a muscle. Space flight could result in “diminished cardiac function” and even the heart rhythm disturbances. Space radiation, isolation, distance from earth are also some of the hazards astronauts face.

What will Al Mansouri do on the ISS?

Al Mansouri will conduct 16 researches on the reaction of vital indicators of the human body at ISS, in comparison with Earth, before and after the trip. This is the first time this kind of research will be done by an astronaut from the Arab region. Results of this research will be shared with the international community and compared with available research as well. He will also conduct a detailed tour of the space station in Arabic.

What are the benefits of space science and the ISS to humanity?

Flachbart said: “A lot of people talk about why we spend millions or billions of US dollars in space. We’re actually not spending it in space. We’re spending it here on Earth by employing people in good jobs here on earth, in creating technologies. A lot of those technologies pay off in benefits here on Earth in terms of weather forecasting, earth resource, soil moisture, sea level, any number of things like that that help us as we prepare either on to the moon or further out to Mars one day or maybe even further several centuries from now.”

Other technologies we see around us now and are used in everyday life are actually developed as a direct result of space industry research like the camera phone, water purification, LED lighting, modern smoke detectors, scratch-resistant glass coating, CAT scans, landmine removal, athletic shoes, ear thermometers, and portable computer.

Can regular people go as tourists to the ISS?

Yes. In 2001, American millionaire Dennis Tito became the first space tourist, with a ticket to space costing $20 million (Dh73.4 million). Between then and 2009, Space Adventures, a private Russian company, facilitated seven space tourists’ trips to the ISS.

In June, Nasa announced it is opening the ISS to new commercial opportunities. But the trip is for those with $59 million to spare for one ticket per person.

How much does it cost to go to the ISS?

According to Fox News, Nasa usually shells out around $75 million to send astronauts to the ISS on-board the Russian’s Soyuz spacecraft.

In 2015, the price it paid for a seat was $82 million.

Technologies developed by space research

  • Camera phone
  • Water purification
  • Led lighting
  • Mapping software
  • Weather satellites
  • Wireless headsets
  • Computer mouse

Others: Freeze-dried food, home insulation, modern smoke detectors, scratch-resistant glass coating, CAT scans, landmine removal, athletic shoes, ear thermometers, the jaws of life, memory foam, baby formula, artificial limbs, portable computer, equipment that monitor blood pressure remotely



All eyes on historic UAE space mission


  • Emirati astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori to blast off into space on Sept. 25 from Kazakhstan
  • Saudi Arabia's Prince Sultan bin Salman blazed a trail 34 years ago for others to follow

ABU DHABI: Come Sept. 25, Hazza Al-Mansoori of the UAE will become the third Arab to travel into space. On that day, at exactly 6.56pm, Al-Mansoori will blast off to the International Space Station (ISS) on board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft. With Al-Mansoori making the historic journey with two other astronauts, an American and a Russian, the hope is that he will be inaugurating a new era of Arab participation in space exploration.
The honor of being the first Arab in space goes to Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, who was one of the astronauts on board the space shuttle Discovery as part of a NASA mission 34 years ago.
Two years later, Muhammed Faris, a Syrian military aviator, became the second Arab to journey into space.
Al-Mansoori is currently in quarantine alongside the other two crew members — Russian commander Oleg Skripochka and Nasa astronaut Jessica Meir — at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
In a statement, Yousuf Hamad Al-Shaibani, director general of the UAE’s Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC), acknowledged the support of NASA, the European Space Agency and Roscosmos.
“The UAE’s first mission to the ISS is the result of extensive efforts by dedicated individuals and organizations in the UAE,” he said, “and also the result of important strategic partnerships with major global space agencies … who spared no effort in preparing our astronauts and providing them with all the support and training they need.”
A father of four with a bachelor’s degree in aviation sciences from Khalifa bin Zayed Aviation College, Al-Mansoori previously said he applied for the astronaut program because it was his dream as a child “and our leaders encourage us to achieve our dreams.”
Al-Mansoori and his comrade Sultan Al-Neyadi — the UAE’s chosen backup astronaut — were selected from 4,022 applicants to the UAE Astronaut Program after a series of advanced medical and psychological tests as well as personal interviews conducted to the highest international standards, according to UAE state news agency Wam.
On being handpicked, Al-Mansoori said: “When I was told I was selected for the program, it was difficult to express how proud and honored I felt. I was euphoric.”
Before applying for the program, Al-Mansoori — who has amassed more than 14 years of experience in military aviation — was a pilot and flew the UAE air force’s F-16 Block 60, one of the world’s most advanced jet fighters.


38th - UAE’s place in list of nations to have sent a citizen to space.

3rd - Arab astronaut honor will go to Hazza Al-Mansoori.

34 - Gap in years between first and third Arab in space.

562nd - Person to be sent into space will be Al-Mansoori.

18 - Total number of countries whose citizens have been to ISS.

He was also one of the first Arab and Emirati pilots to take part in the Dubai Air Show’s celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the UAE armed forces.
“A lot of things are happening in my mind from now till the launch,” Al-Mansoori was recently quoted as saying. “I’ve prepared for this mission but not only from here,” he said. “It started from my childhood, from how my parents raised me, the confidence I gained from my life; thanks to our leadership for giving me this opportunity today to represent my country.
“I will try to remember each second of the launch because it will be really important for me to share with my country, with the world and the Arab region that experience.”
A similar sense of wonder and excitement gripped the Middle East when Prince Sultan became, at the age of 28, the first Arab astronaut. Currently the chairman of the Saudi Space Agency, Prince Sultan, son of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, was the first Arab, Muslim and royal to travel into space on June 17, 1985.

Also read: Our interactive story about Saudi Prince Sultan, the first Arab in space in 1985

Discovery lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a seven-day mission during which Prince Sultan helped to deploy a satellite for the Arab Satellite Communications Organization (Arabsat).
During a special one-on-one interview with Arab News in the lead-up to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Prince Sultan, recalling his remarkable journey, said: “Brave people are people who feel fear but still go forward.”
On July 22, 1987, Faris, the Syrian military aviator, joined the elite club of Arabs in space when he blasted off on board a Soyuz craft of the USSR. Faris, who now lives in Turkey as a refugee, carried with him a vial of soil from Damascus and conducted scientific experiments alongside Russian cosmonauts.
To date, 563 people in history have gone to space, starting with Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who orbited the Earth on April 12, 1961. American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969. While Al-Mansoori will be the first Emirati to travel to space, he will not be the last. Backup astronaut Al-Neyadi has been promised the next spot on a UAE mission to space.
The UAE also has plans to launch an exploration probe to Mars to mark the 50th anniversary of the country’s foundation in 2020. The Emirates Mars Mission will launch its Al-Amal, or Hope, spacecraft from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan.
Al-Amal is designed to orbit Mars, which has an area of contrasting brightness and darkness that was named Arabia Terra in 1979 for its resemblance to the Arabian Peninsula.
Elsewhere in the region, Morocco last year launched its second Earth observation satellite, Mohammed VI-B, while space programs have been established in Algeria and Egypt. In Saudi Arabia, institutions such as the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) are playing their part in educating Arab space scientists of the future. The Saudi Space Agency was set up by royal decree on Dec. 27, 2018. In comments to Arab News in July, Salem Humaid Al-Marri, the MBRSC assistant director general for science and technology, said: “The UAE is working with the Saudi space program, as well
as with others such as Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait and Bahrain, to boost Arab presence in the space industry. Space is bringing Arab nations together.”
For now, final preparations are underway for the UAE’s Sept. 25 voyage, after the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Star City, Russia officially gave the green light for the mission on Sept. 5.
Once Al-Mansoori reaches the ISS, he will present a tour of the station in Arabic and will conduct Earth observation and imaging experiences, interact with ground stations, share information, as well as documenting the daily lives of astronauts at the station.
Al-Mansoori will study the effect of microgravity compared with gravity on Earth. The effects of space travel on the human body will also be studied before and after he completes his mission. It is the first time such research will be carried out on an astronaut from the Arab region.
He will not be missing traditional Emirati food as three dishes have been prepared for his journey — the madrooba, a salt-cured fish seasoned with spices; saloona, a traditional Emirati stew; and balaleet, a sweet Emirati breakfast dish of egg and vermicelli.
After completing his role as a second flight engineer, Al-Mansoori will return to Earth aboard a Soyuz-MS 12 spacecraft.
With just days remaining before he makes history, Al-Mansoori is taking the words of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al-Maktoum, the crown prince of Dubai, with him: “A historic space flight, the ambition of the UAE and a new challenge. Keep your morale high and embrace the challenge. May Allah bless this landmark mission.”


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