UAE announces crew member to take part in next phase of Mars simulation mission

Shareef Al Romaithi will spend 45 days in Houston, Texas, living with other crew members

The Hera facility, in which Shareef Al Romaith will spend 45 days. Photo: Nasa
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The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has revealed the identity of the Emirati who will take part in the next phase of a Nasa simulation to replicate the conditions of a mission to Mars.

Shareef Al Romaithi will participate in the next phase of the project, which is due to start on May 10, the MBRSC announced on Monday evening.

The project involves analogue astronauts – crew members who take part in simulated missions on Earth – to test the effects of space flight on the human mind and body.

Mr Al Romaithi will spend 45 days living with other crew members in a specially designed facility in Houston, Texas, as part of the Human Exploration Research Analogue (Hera) project.

“We are pleased to announce the selection of Shareef Al Romaithi for the second analogue study of the UAE Analogue Programme at the Hera habitat, marking another significant step towards the UAE's vision for space exploration," said Salem Al Marri, director general of MBRSC.

"This mission, blending scientific research and international collaboration with Nasa, is poised to deepen our understanding of the physiological and psychological challenges of long-duration space travel through experiments here on Earth.

"The insights gained from these Earth-based simulations will be instrumental in preparing humanity for the next giant leap – setting foot on Mars and beyond.

The UAE is honoured to be part of this journey, and we will continue to push the boundaries of what is possible and inspire future generations to be part of the space sector.”

Mr Al Romaithi is a pilot with more than 16 years of experience in the airline industry, including more than 9,000 flight hours on multiple Airbus and Boeing aircraft, according to a statement released by the MBRSC.

In isolation

The Hera facility is a three-storey habitat that offers the isolation, confinement and remote conditions that are experienced during space exploration missions.

Mr Al Romaithi is part of the second group of volunteers to participate in an analogue study in Hera this year.

The first phase was completed in March. The third and fourth phases will take place in August and November.

It is the second simulation mission in which the Emirates has been involved, after Saleh Al Ameri completed an eight-month mission in Russia in 2022.

The project will also see six experiments being carried by universities in the UAE. These include the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU), and the American University of Sharjah (AUS), in collaboration with the MBRSC.

Updated: April 15, 2024, 6:12 PM