Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 15 July 2020

UAE IN SPACE

Middle East’s largest space camp featuring astronaut training simulators to open in UAE

It will also feature rocket design labs, a cube satellite laboratory and a planetarium

The region’s largest space camp is set to open in the UAE, with two astronaut training simulators already available.

The Space and Rocket Exploration Centre is expected to open in 2022 and will be able to accommodate up to 500 children.

However, the camp will be opening this September in a temporary facility that can host up to 200 pupils – still the largest space education-dedicated campus for children available in the country.

The project is an expansion of an existing space camp that has been hosted by the Space and Rocketry Academy UAE in the country since 2017.

“The multi axis trainer is the first two simulators that have arrived as part of the space camp,” said Lissy Donald, the founder of Compass International UAE – the firm that runs the academy.

“Over the years, we’ve seen a greater interest from schools, parents and children, so we wanted to give the full experience of a space camp like how you get in the US and other parts of the world.”

The initial design of the Space and Rocket Exploration Centre, which is expected to open in 2022. Courtesy: Lissy Donald 
The initial design of the Space and Rocket Exploration Centre, which is expected to open in 2022. Courtesy: Lissy Donald 

This is the first time astronaut training simulators have been made available to children in the UAE.

Speaking to The National, Ms Donald said other machines will be arriving soon, which includes a zero gravity wall, a space shuttle landing simulator and a microgravity chair.

On the multi axis trainer, children are strapped in a chair and are spun in all directions while in between giant metal rings.

The movement is meant to simulate spatial disorientation, specifically the feeling of spinning uncontrollably in microgravity.

Mercury astronauts – those who were part of the United States’ first human spaceflight programme – used to train in an intense version of this simulator in the 1960s, called the gimbal rig.

The first two multi axis simulator have already arrived in the UAE. Antonie Robertson / The National 
The first two multi axis simulator have already arrived in the UAE. Antonie Robertson / The National 

The machine is portable and Ms Donald plans on taking them to schools across the country once they reopen.

She said 700 children were booked to use them in the first half of this year, but it proved difficult with the Covid-19 restrictions that were in place.

Although, some pupils have already had the chance to experience the multi axis trainer.

One of them was Rhema Bhamburkar, a 17-year-old pupil at Dubai Scholars Private School.

“It was pretty exciting because I felt what astronauts feel like when launch takes place. To be in their shoes was quite an exhilarating experience,” she said.

”Space is never ending and we always have multiple discoveries, so having pupils learn about these things at the camp will be very interesting. It will give us an insider view of how astronauts train and the work they do in space.”

Ms Donald said more children in the UAE are now interested in space since witnessing UAE’s first astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri’s journey to the International Space Station last year.

Dubai school pupils Rhema Bhamburkar (R), 17, Abriana Donald (M), 13, and David Donald, 18, are some who have experienced the simulator. Antonie Robertson / The National 
Dubai school pupils Rhema Bhamburkar (R), 17, Abriana Donald (M), 13, and David Donald, 18, are some who have experienced the simulator. Antonie Robertson / The National 

She said children have been coming down from other Arab countries to participate in the camp.

The UAE Space Agency has sponsored Emirati children in the past to attend the academy, which used to be hosted in schools due to a lack of a permanent location.

The centre will also feature interactive space presentations, rocket design labs, a cube satellite lab and concepts and a StarLab planetarium.

The programme is designed for pupils aged nine to 18 and offers a 30-hour curriculum over a period of five days. The cost is Dh1,500 per person.

The ‘5 degrees of freedom chair’ simulator, a toned-down version of what was used by astronauts for spacewalks, will also be on offer. Courtesy: Compass International UAE
The ‘5 degrees of freedom chair’ simulator, a toned-down version of what was used by astronauts for spacewalks, will also be on offer. Courtesy: Compass International UAE

Ms Donald said the price is “more affordable” than the space camp trips abroad that were organised for children by her firm.

“It used to cost nothing less than Dh15,000 per child for a nine-day camp in the US, which included flights. The camp itself was for five days and costed Dh5,500,” she said.

“Now, children will have access to space education and space-themed activities within the UAE.”

A replica of the Space Shuttle Landing simulator. Courtesy: Compass International UAE 
A replica of the Space Shuttle Landing simulator. Courtesy: Compass International UAE 

The location of the temporary facility is yet to be decided, however, it may be in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

The building for the Space and Rocket Exploration Centre is currently in the design phase, with construction expected to begin next year.

Updated: June 30, 2020 03:38 PM

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