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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

First UAE astronaut to blast off into space in September, Russian media reports

State-owned news agency Sputnik says date has been set to send Emirati pioneer into orbit

The first UAE astronaut will be heading to the International Space Station at the end of September.
The first UAE astronaut will be heading to the International Space Station at the end of September.

The first UAE astronaut will blast off into space in September, according to Russian reports.

State-owned news agency Sputnik reported that the rocket which will carry the pioneering Emirati will launch on September 25.

A three-man crew will return to Earth on October 3 following eight days in space, rather than the 10 days that were originally announced.

Sputnik claimed the date for the Russian mission, which the UAE is participating in, was moved forward from October.

The amended details have not yet been confirmed by the Dubai-based Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre.

It will hold an event on Monday in Dubai to announce the mission details and reveal the chosen astronaut.

On its way to the International Space Station, the Soyuz rocket will carry one of the two Emirati astronauts who are currently undergoing training – Hazza Al Mansouri, 34, or Sultan Al Neyadi, 37 – as well as a Russian commander Oleg Skripochka and American flight engineer Chris Cassidy.

On its return, the rocket will bring back the UAE astronaut and a returning crew from the ISS who have spent several months in space.

Under an agreement signed with the Russian space agency Roscosmos, the first UAE astronaut was scheduled to go into orbit in April.

Those plans were disrupted by the aborted launch of a Soyuz rocket last October. What should have been a routine mission ended with the crew making an emergency landing just three minutes into the flight.

An inquiry later found the failure was caused by a faulty sensor on a booster rocket during separation.

Russia briefly suspended Soyuz flights, before allowing them to resume in early December, but the issue forced a rethink of its timetable for future missions.

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The UAE astronaut's place on the MS-12 was bumped following the incident as the seats were reportedly reserved for the two astronauts from the previous mission who had missed out.

It is expected that the Emirati astronaut will be accompanied on the return home by one of them – Russia’s Aleksey Ovchinin.

The two Emiratis are training for the mission, enduring simulations of zero gravity and learning to fend for themselves in the wilderness to prepare them for the possibility of an off-course landing in Siberia.

They were chosen from more than 4,000 hopefuls in a national competition organised by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, and only one of them will be picked to take part in September's space mission.

Updated: February 18, 2019 04:47 PM

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