Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 June 2019

An astonishing illustration of growth and ability

Hazza Al Mansouri will carry the aspirations of a nation with him into space in September

Hazza Al Mansouri trained alongside Sultan Al Neyadi in Russia in preparation for his trip to the International Space Station in September  
Hazza Al Mansouri trained alongside Sultan Al Neyadi in Russia in preparation for his trip to the International Space Station in September  

After months of tough endurance tests, more than 4,000 applicants to be the first Emirati in space have been whittled down to one. On Friday the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre announced that Hazza Al Mansouri will plant the UAE flag on the International Space Station later this year, completing a lifelong dream for the 34-year-old military pilot, whose fascination with the cosmos began as a child stargazing on desert trips.

It is the culmination of a series of physical and psychological tests and months of training in Russia – but when he sets off on September 29, that will no doubt feel like a small price to pay. On his shoulders, Mr Al Mansouri will carry the hopes and aspirations of his nation, and the wider Arab world. Equally deserving of praise is his colleague and back-up Sultan Al Neyadi. Both men have approached the mission with much determination and team spirit, in the knowledge that the collective aspirations of the UAE eclipse individual triumph. Only one will go to space but both are heroes.

Since the nation first dreamed of exploring new frontiers in 2006, it has channelled resources and expertise into the space race, where there are many contenders and a fierce competition to stake claim to new records, from missions to satellites. The culmination of this process will be the UAE’s bid to build the first human colony on Mars by 2117. Mr Al Mansouri is the face of those aspirations and an entire nation will rally behind him as he embarks on his mission. For a country which is not yet 50, it is an astonishing demonstration of growth and an ability to turn ambition into reality. turn ambition into reality.

Updated: April 13, 2019 06:27 PM

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