Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

Sheikh Hamdan wishes UAE's first astronaut luck as 15-day countdown begins

Hazza Al Mansouri is travelling to Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to prepare for launch on September 25

Hazza Al Mansouri, the UAE's first astronaut, departs Star City in Moscow. Courtesy Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre
Hazza Al Mansouri, the UAE's first astronaut, departs Star City in Moscow. Courtesy Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre

With just 15 days to go before the UAE's first astronaut goes to space, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, wished Hazza Al Mansouri luck during a phone call.

Sheikh Hamdan had some encouraging words for the former F-16 pilot and his back-up Sultan Al Neyadi on Tuesday.

"A historic space flight, the ambition of the UAE and a new challenge," Sheikh Hamdan said of the mission set for September 25.

He told Maj Al Mansouri and Mr Al Neyadi how proud the UAE leadership and Emirati people were of them.

“We wish you great success. Keep your morale high and embrace the challenge. May Allah bless this landmark mission,” Sheikh Hamdan said on Twitter.

Maj Al Mansouri and Mr Al Neyadi left Star City, Moscow, on Tuesday after a farewell ceremony at the Yuri Gagarin Astronaut Training Centre, where they underwent rigorous training.

“We are now at an important stage ... in making this remarkable achievement for the country,” said Hamad Al Mansoori, chairman of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre

“We are truly proud of what we achieved. Today, Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi carry the ambitions of the late Sheikh Zayed, and renew their pledge to ... raise the UAE’s flag in space. I’d like to thank them for making us proud, and wish them all the best,” he said.

The main and back-up teams, which include astronauts from Nasa and cosmonauts from Russia, will now travel to Kazakhstan where they will go into quarantine for two weeks before the mission to the International Space Station.

This is to ensure they are free of germs or infection on the day of the launch at Baikonur Cosmodrome.

In a conference held by Nasa and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in Texas, in July, Maj Al Mansouri said he was aware of the importance of the mission for the UAE.

"This mission is a great milestone for me personally and for my country, and the whole Arab region in general,” he said.

Maj Al Mansouri is scheduled to leave Earth on board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft at 5.56pm UAE time on September 25.

Once the launch has taken place, Mr Al Neyadi’s part in the mission will have come to an end unless he is called upon to take the place of his compatriot.

Maj Al Mansouri's eight-day mission will be packed with tasks that include giving a tour of the ISS in Arabic for viewers on Earth and carrying out 15 experiments from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre’s "Science in Space" schools competition.

At the end of each day, Mr Al Mansouri will rest in a sleeping bag attached to the wall of a crew cabin.

He will return to Earth on October 3, at 4.48pm.

Updated: September 10, 2019 05:35 PM

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