Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 26 May 2019

Dubai Crown Prince meets UAE's first astronauts

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed visited the under-construction Museum of the Future with Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Neyadi

The UAE's first astronauts have met the Crown Prince of Dubai - just days before it is revealed which of them will make the historic maiden Emirati journey into space.

Hazza Al Mansouri, 34, and Sultan Neyadi, 37, enjoyed a royal appointment with Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed after landing back in the UAE following extensive training in Russia.

The country will be told at a press conference at Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre on Monday which of the men will carve out a place in the record books, and the date they will blast off.

The chosen astronaut will embark on a voyage aboard a Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station.

The two men have been enjoying some downtime in their homeland before the momentous announcement is made.

They took a look at the Museum of the Future, which will boast a research centre with labs and classrooms, as well as a space for visitors to experience coming technology when it swings open its doors in 2020.

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.

The mission details are to be revealed at the press conference in Dubai on Monday.

Under an agreement signed with the Russian space agency Roscosmos, the first UAE astronaut was initially 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.

The two Emiratis have been training hard 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.

Updated: February 22, 2019 11:06 AM

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