Red alert: mission launched to find Emiratis to replicate life on Mars

Candidates must apply before March 4 for eight-month Moscow isolation test in mock-up space capsule

The hunt is on for adventurous Emiratis keen to provide a unique insight into life on Mars. Courtesy: European Space Agency  
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Three days camping out in a freezing Russian forest is one thing, being trapped inside a confined space capsule on Earth for eight months is an altogether different proposition.

That is the daunting challenge facing the successful applicant from an expected intake of hundreds of Emiratis with ambitions of aiding the UAE’s planning for a Mars mission.

The winning candidate will join a team of five others selected by other space agencies around the world.

“UAE Analog mission one will focus on six crew for a period of eight months to study the physical and psychological impacts of that time in a confined space,” said Adnan Al Rais, the Mars 2117 programme manager at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre.

Phase two of the operation will open the door for UAE nationals to apply to take part

“International co-operation is very important to us, so we are working with all the international space agencies on this project.

“They will have limited communication with the outside world, and their tasks will be simulated as they would be carried out on Mars.”

Major Hazza Al Mansouri became the first Emirati to launch into space on September 25 of last year when he took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on-board a Russian Soyuz rocket.

He returned on October 3 after conducting a series of scientific experiments at the International Space Station.

Months of preparation with his colleague Sultan Al Neyadi at the cosmonaut training centre in Star City near Moscow included learning how to survive, should their return flight land in the vast Russian wilderness.

Applicants for the Analog mission hoping to be part of Crew One face a more mundane but no less challenging adventure.

Successful applicants must fit a set of strict criteria, such as a passion for space, knowledge of foreign languages, specifically English and Russian, and a higher education.

Hazza Al Mansouri (left) and Sultan Al Neyadi carried the hopes of a nation as they prepared to venture into space. Courtesy: Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre

They must be no taller than 180cm with a body mass index of between 18.5 and 30.

Analysts will assess their role within a team dynamic to measure how the crew interacts during what would be a simulated journey to the Red Planet

The Moscow facility where the Analog project will take place has hosted many similar missions since the 1960s to simulate journeys into outer space.

Crew will follow a timetable to manage their daily activity, following slots for recreation, exercise, sleep, eating and work.

They will be totally cut off from physical contact with the outside world, but will have access to phone calls and information as per protocols on the ISS.

Emiratis must submit their interest to join the programme before March 4.

A panel of judges will assess submissions during a month long interview and review process, with the two finalists selected in May.

A final candidate, along with a reserve, will then be chosen.

“Phase One was completed in October when universities and scientists submitted their research proposals that the crew should undertake during their mission,” said Mr Al Rais.

“They included looking at the latest robotic and face technologies and the impact of space on Arabic genes.

“Phase two of the operation will open the door for UAE nationals to apply to take part in the eight month mission.”

This summer, the Hope Probe will launch from the UAE to study the atmosphere on Mars.

It aims to collect two years worth of data ahead of an anticipated manned-mission to the red planet sometime within the next century.