UAE has proven in space what it’s best at doing on Earth: multilateral push for progress. When Emirati astronaut Hazzaa Al Mansoori touched down on Earth on Thursday afternoon after an eight-day rendezvous at the International Space Station, it was more than a historic moment for UAE’s ambitious space mission. It was also a vindication of the UAE’s consistent focus on its soft power.
As a joint project between the US, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada, the International Space Station is the best example of multilateral stakeholders working together — often in spite of long-standing differences here on Earth — to unlock new opportunities for human progress.
And in sending its first astronaut to the ISS, the UAE has once again demonstrated that it can work very comfortably with a wide range of nations to accomplish a global mission — like it did in countless other situations and projects.
From Expo 2020 Dubai to Louvre Abu Dhabi. From being the most generous nation on Earth (the world’s top donor country for the last five years) to creating an environment where more than 200 nationalities coexist in peace. From preparing for a historic mission to Mars next year, to the UAE passport being among the world’s most powerful.
Two years ago, the UAE did not have any astronauts.
In sending its first astronaut to the ISS, the UAE has once again demonstrated that it can work very comfortably with a wide range of nations to accomplish a global mission — like it did in countless other situations and projects
It was in December 2017 that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced the nation’s plan for a human space flight programme, and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre has now turned it into reality.
It is also a fitting tribute that the UAE’s space milestone comes in the Year of Tolerance — the sight of a consortium of Russian and US astronauts feasting on Emirati delicacies such as balaleet and saloona at zero gravity was a celebration of human diversity well beyond the realms of Earth.
When the 35-year-old Al Mansoori stepped out of the Soyuz MS-12 module in Kazakhstan on Thursday, it was a moment of immense pride for the UAE — a moment that will certainly inspire a generation of Emirati and Arab youth to literally aim for the sky.
That moment was also a reminder that while the UAE remains firmly grounded in global geopolitical realities, it is determined to carry the fruits of its human endeavour well beyond the Earth. It is a model worth emulating for many other nations in the Arab world and beyond, for it is the sureshot path to future peace and prosperity.