UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi shows off breathing mask used during space emergencies

Mr Al Neyadi is currently training at Nasa’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas

UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi showed off a protective breathing mask that is used in space during emergencies – one of the many pieces of safety equipment he is learning about during training at a Nasa facility in the US.

On Friday, Mr Al Neyadi shared a short clip of an oxygen mask used by astronauts to protect themselves from toxic chemicals.

He and Maj Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati to go into space, are undergoing intense training at Nasa’s Johnson Space Centre for 30 months. They are being prepared for long-haul space missions, performing spacewalks, and are learning the systems of the International Space Station.

“How cool is this mask? Not only did it take me a few seconds to wear, but I’ve done it using one hand,” Mr Al Neyadi tweeted.

“Such protective gear is what helps astronauts react to emergencies super-fast. It is a PBE (protective breathing equipment) and provides oxygen in case of a fire or toxic chemicals released on board the International Space Station (ISS).”

The Emirati astronauts' training in Houston, Texas, began last September. Once completed, they will qualify for Nasa-led missions.

For the UAE's first space mission in 2019, the country's main partner was with Russia's space agency Roscosmos. The Russians trained the two Emirati astronauts for 12 months.

A Soyuz rocket – the only transport method for human spaceflights at the time – was used to send Maj Al Mansouri to the space station, where he stayed for eight days.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre has also signed agreements with Nasa for collaboration in human spaceflights.

Two more astronauts are set to join the UAE’s astronaut corps this month. Out of 4,305 aspiring astronauts that applied, only four remain in the running.

With the country’s focus on gender equality, there is a possibility one of the new astronauts could be a woman.

More female candidates made it to the final round this time, compared to the first selection process in 2018.

A second Emirati space mission has not been announced yet, but with space transport services company SpaceX now launching astronauts to the ISS, the UAE has more options.

An agreement has yet to be reached, but Salem Al Marri, head of the nation's astronaut programme, told The National that they are in discussions with all entities capable of launching humans into space.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, had said more spaceflights with crews are planned for this decade.

The UAE’s partnership with Nasa is growing. Last year, the UAE Space Agency became part of the Artemis Accords, a Nasa-led international space treaty that outlines responsible and peaceful space exploration.

Other countries that have signed are Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, the UK and Luxembourg.

The head of Russia’s space programme, however, had said the accords were “too US-centric”.

Instead, Russia is looking to sign a memorandum of understanding with China on building an international lunar research station.

Hazza Al Mansouri answers question from space - in pictures 

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