Two Emirati astronauts could be part of a mission that would land boots on the Moon, it was revealed at the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) on Thursday night.
Taking part in a panel discussion, Nasa astronaut Sunita Williams and Hazzaa AlMansoori, the first Emirati to go to space, revealed some details about the upcoming Artemis mission to survey the Moon.
The UAE Space Agency had signed an accord with Nasa in 2020 to be part of the Artemis missions to explore outer space. Artemis III is expected to follow in a few years, carrying the first woman to step on the Moon.
The next Emirati astronauts, Mohammad AlMulla and Nora AlMatrooshi, are currently undergoing rigorous training with Nasa.
Moon before Mars
Williams believes that before humans can land on Mars, they first have to look more closely into the Moon.
The Moon is a natural stepping stone, she added. “We need to be able to go back to the Moon and live there sustainably so that we can understand and learn to take the next steps to Mars.” Astronauts’ last Moon mission was the Apollo 17 in 1972.
When Nasa astronaut Sunita first thought about space travel, she thought it was just fiction. “But we actually did it. And we are working and living on the International Space Station. There’s no doubt in my mind that we will be working and living on the Moon in the next 10 to 15 years,” she said.
With research constantly being done to improve space missions, Williams and AlMansoori spoke of the successful collaborations between countries like UAE, Russia, Japan and those in Europe.
“We have also contracted with other companies, SpaceX and Blue Origin, to be part of the human landing system. It’s a little crazy,” said Williams.
Life after space
AlMansoori inspired the entire hall with his speech about the ‘Zayed Ambition’ and the UAE making its mark in space. He showed pictures of his extensive training with fellow Emirati astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi, who recently returned from a six-month mission aboard the ISS.
Life back on Earth is difficult for those who spent any amount of time in zero gravity, he said. “The first night I came back from space, just sitting like this was so painful. You can feel the pressure everywhere because gravity is pulling you down.”
Williams added: “You don’t realise that gravity affects every part of us. Even the small muscles in your neck to the muscles that allow you to balance on one leg, you’re not using those when you are up there. So, when you come back, all those muscles have to get reengaged,”
For the astronauts, it took rigorous exercise and training to go to space and just as much to readjust to Earth.