NASA and the UAE Space Agency had signed a co-operation agreement a few years ago, which said the two entities would collaborate on human spaceflights in future.
UAE astronauts Hazzaa Al Mansoori and Sultan Al Neyadi are preparing for their next mission of spacewalks and long-haul station missions at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas.
The Dubai Media Office released a new video where the duo can be seen training at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) in preparation for their future missions.
Training at the NBL is “one of the best methods to prepare astronauts for spacewalks”, says the video. Neutral buoyancy is the equal tendency of an object to sink or float, it explained.
The NBL’s main feature is reportedly a large indoor pool of water, in which astronauts perform simulated extravehicular activity (EVA) tasks in preparation for upcoming missions. Trainees wear suits designed to provide neutral buoyancy to simulate the microgravity that astronauts would experience during spaceflight.
Located at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, near the space centre, the pool is 12 metres deep and contains 2.4m litres of water.
The laboratory is used to develop flight procedures, verify hardware compatibility, train astronauts, and refine spacewalks procedures.
The images tweeted by Dubai Media Office showed the pair wearing 130-kilogram extravehicular activities spacesuits while performing tasks underwater.
“A sense of excitement and seriousness is present every time we train in the Neutral Buoyancy Lab,” Al Neyadi said.
“This complex and physically demanding training can last up to six hours underwater, where we simulate spacewalks outside the ISS. One step closer for another achievement.”
Astronauts can spend up to 10 hours a day at the bottom of the pool to practise maintenance work on the space station model and refine spacewalk techniques.
The Emirati astronauts’ training in the US will help them qualify for NASA-led missions.
They are also training in Northrop T-38 Talon supersonic jets, which helps a pilot experience seven G-force.
The T-38 can fly at Mach 1.6 – 1,975 kilometres an hour – and 12,000 metres high – that is 3,000m higher than typical passenger airliners.
Al Mansouri and Al Neyadi have completed six months of their 36-month training programme.
The UAE is also looking for more astronauts and has invited applications from interested candidates. Five women and nine men are currently vying for the race to the second batch of Mohamed Bin Rashid Space Centre’s (MBRSC) UAE Astronaut Programme for the future crewed space flights.