A screen grab showing the first UAE astronaut, Hazzaa AlMansoori, at the International Space Station last year. Image Credit: Courtesy: Nasa

Dubai: The UAE’s first astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori and Sharjah-based professor Dr Nidhal Guessom were named among the top 100 global leaders in space exploration for 2021, according to Richtopia, a digital platform ranking achievements of leading figures in the world.

Dr Guessom, the Sharjah-based Algerian astrophysicist, came on 65th place while AlMansoori, the first Emirati astronaut, was ranked 81.

South African billionaire, industrial engineer and SpaceX founder Elon Musk topped the list. He was followed by renowned American astrophysicist and science author Neil deGrasse Tyson, while British astronaut Tim Peake and retired Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield grabbed the third and fourth places respectively. The list also includes pioneering American astronaut Buzz Aldrin Jessica Meir and Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic.

According to Richtopia, the space-exploration list was compiled with journalistic research using several metrics combined to produce a final score. “Some of the leading indicators include the participants’ social media following, online engagement, overall news coverage, monthly name searches on Google and digital presence. Our space-exploration list gets updated annually and is based uniquely on digital influence,” it noted.

UAE pioneer

AlMansoori is widely recognised as a pioneer in UAE’s space exploration. His achievement signalled a new dawn for the region’s space sector as he became the first Arab aboard the International Space Station (ISS). He was sent to space aboard the Russian spacecraft Soyuz MS-15 on September 25, 2019, from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. He conducted 16 scientific experiments at ISS, in cooperation with international space agencies, including the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa). He studied reactions of vital indicators of the human body, including brain function, osteology, haemodynamics, motor control, time perception in microgravity and fluid dynamics in space, among others.

AlMansoori returned to Earth on October 3 — and together with reserved astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi — he went on campus tours sharing his experiences as an astronaut. Both he and AlNeyadi are currently undergoing extensive training at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, for future space missions, including space walks and long-duration station missions.

Erudite astrophysicist

Professor Nidhal Guessoum is an Algerian professor of Physics and Astronomy at the American University of Sharjah. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Guessoum is an Algerian professor of Physics and Astronomy at the American University of Sharjah. Aside from studying and teaching about gamma-ray astrophysics, he has also published a number of technical works and lectured internationally at many renowned universities, including Cambridge, Oxford, Cornell and Wisconsin. He also wrote opinion pieces elaborating on a wide gamut of issues related to science, education, the Arab world and Islam. In one of his articles, he wrote about how artificial intelligence is changing education and how teachers can focus on pedagogical tasks and make the education system more efficient.

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After being included in the Top 100 list, he tweeted in Arabic: “A great honour being among the world’s 100 influential and leading figures in the field of space exploration! I take this as a mandate to continue the mission of spreading science.”