Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 December 2019

Hazza Al Mansouri to be first Emirati in space for ISS Mission

Mr Al Mansouri, 34, was chosen to be the prime astronaut and Sultan Al Neyadi as the backup astronaut for the International Space Station mission in September

Hazza Al Mansouri will be the first Emirati to go to space, the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre announced on Friday.

Mr Al Mansouri, 34, was selected as the prime astronaut and Sultan Al Neyadi as the backup astronaut for the International Space Station mission later this year.

The pair, who were selected from thousands of applicants to become the UAE's first astronaut in space, are currently undergoing training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, in preparation for the mission set for September 25.

"Mr Al Mansouri is undergoing his training with the prime team while Mr Al Neyadi is undergoing his training with the backup team. Each team consists of three astronauts," said Salem Al Marri, head of the UAE Astronaut Programme.

In five months, Mr Al Mansouri will set off for an eight-day space mission to ISS aboard a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and return to Earth aboard a Soyuz-MS 12 in what will be a milestone for the UAE and indeed the Arab world.

Hazza Al Mansoori (left) and Sultan Al Neyadi undergo training for their mission to space. Courtesy Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre
Hazza Al Mansouri (left) and Sultan Al Neyadi undergo training for their mission to space. Courtesy Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre

Once Mr Al Mansouri reaches the ISS, he will present a tour of the station in Arabic. He will be conducting earth observation and imaging experiences, interacting with ground stations, sharing information, as well as documenting the daily lives of astronauts at the station, reported state news agency Wam.

During his stay at the ISS, Mr Al Mansouri will also study the effect of microgravity compared with gravity on Earth. The mission will include 15 experiments selected based on MBRSC’s ‘Science in Space’ competition, which targets schools in the UAE.

The effects of space travel on the human body will also be studied before and after Mr Al Mansouri's journey to the ISS. It will be the first time such research is carried out on an astronaut from the Arab region. The results of this study will then be compared with research conducted on astronauts from other regions. Mr Al Mansouri will also be working on ongoing scientific missions at ISS laboratories.

Yousuf Al Shaibani, director general of MBRSC, said Friday's announcement is a major step towards achieving the objectives of the UAE Astronaut Programme - which aims to train and prepare a team of Emiratis to be sent to space for various scientific missions. The programme was announced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, in 2017.

Though Mr Al Mansouri will be the first Emirati to travel to space, he will not be the last, with plans to launch an exploration probe to Mars to mark the nation’s 50th anniversary in 2021. The UAE Space Agency also intends to establish the first human colony on Mars by 2117.

Mr Al Mansouri, a father of four with a bachelor's in aviation sciences from Khalifa bin Zayed Aviation College, previously said he applied for the astronaut programme because it was his dream as a child "and our leaders encourage us to achieve our dreams.

“When I was told I was selected for the programme, it was difficult to express how proud and honoured I felt. I was euphoric,” he said during a press conference in February.

Prior to applying for the programme, Mr Al Mansouri was a pilot and flew the UAE air force's F-16 Block 60, one of the most advanced aircraft in the skies.

He was one of the first Arab and Emirati pilots to take part in the Dubai Air Show’s celebrations of the 50th anniversary of UAE Armed Forces and has amassed more than 14 years of experience in military aviation. He also presented a show on the UAE National Day 2017 and the 50th anniversary of UAE Air Force 2018.

Mr Al Mansouri was also part of Exercise Red Flag, which the US Air Force holds several times per year in the skies above Nevada or Alaska. It sees the best pilots of the US, Nato and their allies perform realistic air-combat exercises.

His colleague, Mr Al Neyadi has been at the forefront of information technology and worked for the UAE military for many years.

He holds a PhD in information technology specialising in data leak prevention from the Griffith University in Queensland. He has also studied at the University of Brighton in the UK and worked as Network Security Engineer for the UAE Armed Forces before joining the UAE Astronaut Programme.

The pair were selected from 4,022 applicants to the UAE Astronaut Programme after a series of advanced medical and psychological tests as well as personal interviews conducted according to the highest international standards, reported state news agency Wam.

Updated: September 9, 2019 01:48 PM

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