Day 5 in space: Hazza Al Mansouri shows off the robots at the ISS

The UAE's first astronaut held two live video sessions on Monday to demonstrate the use of a robot and answer questions from students

Hazza Al Mansouri answers questions from Emirati students studying in Japan during a live session on Monday. Courtesy Jaxa
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On his fifth day at the International Space Station, Hazza Al Mansouri demonstrated the hands-free way astronauts can document their experiments.

In a video live streamed from Kibo Station, the Japanese experiment module, to Kuba Station in Hiroshima, the UAE’s first astronaut showed Emirati students how free-flying robots function in microgravity.

In a joint project between Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa), Maj Al Mansouri explained how the JEM Camera Robot, or Int-Ball, works aboard the ISS.

The Int-Ball, designed in Japan, takes photos of experiments while astronauts carry them out. It is stabilised through an internal gyroscope that helps it maintain orientation. The Int-Ball is also able to move around the Kibo Module by using 12 built-in fans.

It stations itself in the Japanese module by locating and tracking a fluorescent pink target marker.

Spinning the gyroscope to demonstrate how the ball’s axis is maintained, Maj Al Mansouri answered questions from Emirati students studying in Japan.

When Mariam Al Suwaidi asked him what robot he would create to support his daily tasks, Maj Al Mansouri said: “Of course you have to allow your imagination to run wild. I would like a robot similar to the Int-Ball that has four arms to help me hold more things or do more tasks on board the station.”

Noura Al Ammadi asked what other tasks were carried out by robots on the ISS.

“There are different robots on board the station from different agencies," he responded. “Each one of them have different purposes.”

As an example, he mentioned Astrobee, a free-flying robotic system that can complete tasks like taking inventory, documenting experiments with their built-in cameras or working together to move cargo throughout the station.

Mansour Al Mansouri asked the astronaut how he was able to recognise up or down in the ISS.

“The first time I was in the ISS I would struggle to recognise which way was up or down but the deck — or floor- is our reference and everything is orientated upward,” said Maj Al Mansouri.

The session, which was attended by Khaled Al Ameri, UAE Ambassador to Japan, and a team from the MBRSC,  ended with a quiz for the students. Maj Al Mansouri read out multiple choice questions that allowed the students to pick answers based on his presentation.

He later shared a photo of Earth on Twitter, asking his followers to guess the location.

Maj Al Mansouri’s second call of the day was held co-operation with the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos. During that session, students asked how water reaches the ISS, why astronauts are trained at hyper-gravity, reaching 9G’s, what changed in his body during this trip, and if he has visited the different divisions and sections at the station.

Maj Al Mansouri explained that water is delivered to the station via cargo, which are similar to the Soyuz spacecraft that carry astronauts to the ISS.

He said the steam is collected from the station and converted to water.

"The most beautiful thing in the station is microgravity; watch how ‘Suhail’ — the mission mascot — is floating, and watch how I drink water," he said.

He highlighted that astronauts train at a gravitational force of 9-G prior to travelling to space because the gravitational force in the rocket reaches 5-G during launch, and can reach 9-G at emergency situations.

"I visited all the departments at the ISS, in a tour where I filmed everything. Today I was at Jaxa’s Kibo Laboratory, and yesterday I was at ESA’s Columbus Laboratory. I'm excited to share with you the first video about the station in Arabic soon," he said.

"Many changes happened in my body, the size of my head grew bigger because of the rush of fluids upward, and my sense of smell also changed. However, I began to adapt and get used to it after some time.”