UAE to begin second Mars simulation mission this week

An Emirati crew will live in near-isolation inside a habitat for a mock Mars mission

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The UAE will this week begin its participation in a key Nasa simulation aimed at replicating the conditions of a Mars mission to boost international efforts to travel deep into space.

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

The UAE's involvement in the crucial research programme was first revealed by The National in 2022.

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 Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) will take part in the Human Exploration Research Analogue (Hera) project by sending an Emirati crew to live in a habitat in Houston, Texas.

Analogue missions are designed to mimic long-duration space missions and usually involve confining a small team to a habitat where they carry out “space missions”.

The Hera mission has four phases, the first of which begins on Friday.

MBRSC will send an Emirati crew for the second phase, which begins later this year.

Universities in the Emirates are also taking part by sending experiments to the crew, including the UAE University in Al Ain, Mohammed bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, and the American University of Sharjah.

The names of the Emirati analogue crew have not yet been revealed.

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

There have been six campaigns under the programme to date, each of which involved four to five missions and ranged in duration from one to 45 days.

The UAE is planning to build analogue facilities at the planned Dh500 million ($136 million) Mars Science City, a research centre that will simulate the environment of the Red Planet, with pressurised biodomes and robotics labs.

Construction was meant to begin in 2022 but no updates have been provided by MBRSC since.

Updated: March 13, 2024, 1:06 PM