Dubai : The UAE’s mission to space is a “huge responsibility” but is aimed at inspiring the next generation, Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati astronaut said.
“It’s a huge responsibility for me and for my colleague, Sultan, to be the first batch from our country in this UAE Astronaut Programme. Our objective is to inspire the next generation and to let them know that nothing is impossible. This is what we learned and this is what we’re doing now,” Al Mansouri said during Nasa’s live news conference late Monday night from Nasa’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, US.
“For me personally, I started looking at stars when I was a child and [I thought reaching] this point would be impossible. But I’m living the impossible now. So my message to everyone in the world is to work on your dreams, work hard, set your goals and work hard to achieve them and definitely you’ll reach it.”
Al Mansouri was with his crewmates, Nasa astronaut Jessica Meir, and Russian commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos during the news conference where they discussed upcoming Expeditions 61 and 62 crew increments as they launch to the International Space Station (ISS) on September 25 onboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Once on the ISS, Al Mansouri, Meyer and Skripochka will join six other crew members namely Nasa astronauts Nick Hague, Christina Koch, and Andrew Morgan, European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Alexey Ovchinin.
This will be Al Mansouri and Meir’s first expedition to space, and the third one for Skripochka.
Al Mansouri will stay for eight days on the station to study the effects microgravity on the human body. This is the first time this research experiment will be done by an astronaut from the Arab region.
“This mission is a great milestone for me personally and for my country, the United Arab Emirates, and for the whole Arab region in general. As we know for the past 30 years there has been no astronaut from our region. And today I’m really proud and honoured to have this privilege to represent the Arab region to the ISS,” Al Mansouri said.
“I’m really excited and thrilled as we’re getting closer to the launch and to work with this amazing team to represent humanity exploring space. I’m looking forward to join the crew onboard the station and to work with them on a daily basis and to conduct the experiments,” he added.
Aside from doing research, Al Mansouri will also conduct a detailed tour inside the ISS in Arabic. He will feature the components of the station, equipment on board, and methods of conducting experiments at microgravity. The tour will serve as a reference for the Arab region.
During the conference, Al Mansouri said he is looking forward to taking photos of the Palm Jumeirah and Mecca from space.
Al Mansouri will return to Earth with Hague and Ovchinin on October 3.
Meir and Skripochka will join Koch and Morgan on the station during their extended stays to support research on the effects of long-duration human spaceflight, according to Nasa.
The data gathered from this research will help scientists prepare for future missions to the Moon and Mars. It will show the various responses humans might have to living in space for more than six months.
Profile of the Primary Crew:
Hazza Al Mansouri, UAE
Before being selected for the UAE Astronaut Programme, Al Mansouri was a Functional Check Flight (FCF) Pilot F-16B60. He graduated from the Khalifa Bin Zayed Air College, and is a qualified F-16B60 instructor pilot and a demo pilot, apart from being a SOLO Demonstration pilot in F-16B60. 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.
Jessica Meir, US
Meir was selected for astronaut training in 2013. The Maine native earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Brown University, a master’s degree in space studies from the International Space University and a doctorate in marine biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. Before she became an astronaut, Meir studied how bodies of animals respond in extreme environments. She had also participated in diving expeditions to the Antarctic and Belize.
Oleg Skripochka, Russia
Skripochka will be in command of the spacecraft to the ISS. He has been to the ISS twice in 2010 to 2011 and in 2016, clocking a total of 331 days, 12 hours and 30minutes in space.
Skripochka worked at the Russian Space Corporation Energia for more than a decade as a test subject, test mechanic and as a mechanic in the project department.
He graduated from the Bauman Moscow State Technical University with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. Apart from space, skydiving is his passion.