Emirati astronauts, Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi during their visit to Expo 2020 on Thursday

Dubai: The first Emirati astronaut, Hazza Al Mansouri, toured various country pavilions at Expo 2020 Dubai on Thursday, presenting numerous national flags that accompanied him to the International Space Station (ISS) at each stop.

Al Mansouri, who made headlines as the first Arab to visit the ISS following his eight-day stint in 2019, was joined by fellow UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, who trained alongside him and served as his ‘back up’ for the mission.

The Emirati astronauts met Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai, after they opened Expo 2020’s entry portals to the Sustainability District on Thursday morning.

What a flag represents

Al Mansouri said: “I thought about a lot of things that I could take to represent different countries, but nothing like their flags. It’s a representation of their traditions, their thoughts, their ideas, and at the same time their light. When I give back the flags to each country, to each pavilion, I see the happiness and pride of the country’s peoples.”

“They were so happy, and this is the important thing – to connect people. Through the flags and the mission that I did, that’s a very strong message to everyone that what the UAE did, what I did on-board the [ISS], is something international – something that can reach out to everyone,” he added.

The country pavilions the Emirati astronauts visited include Kuwait, Qatar, Israel, Palestine, Oman, Egypt, Tunisia, Somalia and Sudan, with the respective nation’s national flag presented at each.

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Sudanese astronaut soon

“For us as Sudan, this is where our future should go and this is where we are aiming at,” said Dr Rasha Ahmed, Marketing and Business Development Manager for the Sudan Pavilion, immediately after the delegation’s visit.

“We’ve just told Al Mansouri that maybe next time, he’ll be accompanied by a Sudanese astronaut. And we will hold ties… so we can train some of our youth to have the experience of visiting the ISS.”