MBRSC launches second analog study under UAE Analog Program

180 days of research work across four phases
MBRSC launches second analog study under UAE Analog Program
Crew members will study how they adjust to isolation, confinement, and remote conditions on Earth

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) announced today that the second analog study under the UAE Analog Program is set to commence. This study is part of NASA’s Human Exploration Research Analog (HERA). UAE’s analog study will hold 180 days of research work across four phases (45 days each). The analog crew members will study how they adjust to isolation, confinement, and remote conditions on Earth before sending astronauts on long-term missions to space.

Collaborative effort

All four phases of the second analog study will include studies from UAE’s local universities. The first phase will begin on 26 January 2024. Then, the Emirati analog crew members will begin their participation in the second phase which will begin on 10 May 2024. Meanwhile, the third and fourth phases will commence on 9 August 2024 and 1 November 2024, respectively.

As part of NASA’s HERA, UAE’s analog crew members will be part of the research team at the Johnson Space Center. They will carry out various science and maintenance tasks inside the HERA habitat.

The HERA habitat replicates space-like conditions on Earth. It is a unique three-storey habitat that serves as an analog for isolation, confinement, and remote conditions in exploration scenarios while simulating a journey to Mars. Activities onboard will include testing augmented reality and monitoring their mock environment. The analog crew members will also face scenarios such as increasing communication delays with their ground control support staff outside their habitat as they “approach” Phobos.

Activities’ importance

These activities help researchers develop strategies to increase the independence of analog crew members. Moreover, they help them work as a team and communicate effectively to accomplish tasks. With this data, scientists can develop more effective training strategies for astronauts in preparation for interplanetary missions and eventually for ventures to Mars. They also serve the long-term vision for the UAE within the framework of the Mars 2117 program.

Experiments presented

UAE universities are also playing a pivotal role in the second analog study of the UAE Analog Program through their diverse research studies. For example, United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) is focusing on three major areas. The first study will investigate glucose metabolism dysfunctions during the isolation period, using metabolomics. The second study aims to detect deficits in brain function due to cognitive fatigue. Meanwhile, the third project will be an optical-based cardiovascular vital signs monitoring, exploring new methods to assess heart health in isolated environments.

In addition, the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) is contributing two critical studies to UAE’s analog study. The first will assess changes in whole-body energy consumption, energy content, bone density, and muscle mass before and during isolation. Moreover, MBRU will conduct another study that examines the effects of prolonged exposure to a space analog environment on cardiovascular variability and cardio-postural interactions.

Meanwhile, the American University of Sharjah (AUS) is also studying mental stress in isolation and confined environments. This research is vital for understanding the psychological challenges astronauts face during long-term space missions and developing strategies to mitigate these stresses.

Read: UAE tapped to build critical component of NASA’s Lunar Gateway Station

Program’s role

Salem Humaid AlMarri, director general, MBRSC said: “The UAE Analog Program is instrumental in deepening our understanding of the challenges and nuances of long-duration space missions. They are also pivotal in shaping the scientific methodologies and technological innovations required for future expeditions to the Moon and beyond.”

For his part, Adnan AlRais, Mars 2117 Program Manager, MBRSC said: “The analog missions provide us with invaluable insights into the physical, psychological, and technological challenges of long-duration space travel. As we simulate the conditions of space here on Earth, we are not only testing human endurance and adaptability but also refining the technologies and strategies that will be pivotal for the success of future expeditions to the Red Planet.

Notably, the first analog study of the UAE Analog Program, part of the SIRIUS-21 program, was successfully concluded in 2022.  It focused on understanding the effects of isolation on human psychological and physiological conditions.

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