Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

Hazza Al Mansouri prepares for return to Earth

First Emirati astronaut's eight-day mission concludes as he prepares to return along with two other astronauts

A historic mission comes to an end on Thursday as the UAE's first astronaut returns to Earth.

Hazza Al Mansouri spent eight days aboard the International Space Station, cementing himself as the first Emirati to enter the thermosphere — the area above the Karman line that separates the Earth's atmosphere from Space.

His final day will begin early, at 7.45am when the hatch of the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft is closed. He will be returning to Earth along with Nasa astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos cosmonaut Aleksey Ochinin.

On Wednesday, Mr Ochinin handed over command of the ISS to Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency in an official farewell ceremony. Maj Al Mansouri took park by ringing the bell — a tradition to announce the arrival or departure of someone to the ship.

The Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft, carrying the three astronauts, will undock from the station’s Rassvet module at about 11.36am. The return journey will take about 3.5 hours from the moment they undock from the ISS.

The spacecraft will descend to Earth and parachute to land in one of three potential sites in Kazakhstan but will aim for Zhezqazghan, about 600km from the launch site — the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

The spacecraft — also known as the re-entry capsule — comprises three parts, the crew is housed in the middle section. The two other parts guide and propel the capsule, which travels at about 17,500kph.

When it reaches a calculated distance from the landing site, at an altitude of 140km, the three parts separate. The two parts that do not contain the astronauts will burn up in the atmosphere while the final section will drop to Earth.

About 15 minutes from Earth, the capsule slows and the parachutes deploy at 10km above ground. Rockets also help slow the descent.

The impact will still feel like a car accident but the landing should be safe.

Upon landing, the astronauts will be greeted by a welcome party of doctors. Maj Al Mansouri will be immediately be seen by Dr Hanan Al Suwaidi, the flight surgeon for the mission, who examined and followed up with him throughout his training and mission.

Maj Al Mansouri said his first act on Earth will be to call his mother.

Updated: October 6, 2019 09:22 AM

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