Dubai: Hazzaa AlMansoori will arrive back on Earth at 3pm (UAE time) on Thursday bringing an end to his historic eight-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
Returning with Russian commander Alexey Ovchinin and American astronaut Nick Hague, their Soyuz MS-12 descent module is expected to land south east of the remote town of Zhezqazghan, in Kazakhstan, roughly 700-km away from where Hazzaa took off from in Baikonur, over a week ago.
“The landing should take place at around 3pm Dubai time, and procedures [to begin descent] usually start about three and a half hours before that,” Salem Al Merri, Assistant Director-General of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), told Gulf News from Moscow, Russia.
“They have a small ceremony of course and the Soyuz hatch will be closed and then they will do some procedures inside before they will undock.”
Undocking from ISS
Undocking is expected to happen at 11.36am (UAE time) as per Nasa’s schedule. The return trip will take roughly 3.5 hours.
“Once they land, they will be extracted from the capsule. They’ll be placed in chairs outside of the capsule to rest and relax for about 30 minutes. Then they will go to the medical tent where some medical procedures will be done and they will remove their space suit,” Al Merri explained.
“After around 30 to 45 minutes, we will board the helicopters together with Hazzaa. We will then go with Hazzaa to Karaganda Airport and from there they have another medical room and possibly a press conference depending on their condition.”
After completing all procedures in Kazakhstan, Hazzaa and the MBRSC team will board a plane to Moscow for further post-mission medical check-ups.
“We will stay in Moscow until the 11th or until the 14th of October, either of those dates. We have not finalised the date yet,” added Al Merri.
Asked what Hazzaa will do on his final day in space, Al Merri said it’s “business as usual”.
“The rest of his schedule is basically continuing the science, continuing the different activities he has there. This includes some video recording. There’s also the handing over ceremony to Luca Parmitano as the commander of the ISS,” Al Merri explained.
“It’s business as usual. He’s very busy up there and doing great.”
As to when Hazzaa will be able to see his family, Al Merri said that will happen “when he’s back in the UAE”.
In Dubai, a special programme will be held at the MBRSC headquarters for Hazzaa’s return trip to Earth. It is unclear yet when Hazzaa will be back in the UAE but he will surely get a hero’s welcome then.
Meanwhile, on his last day on the space station and despite his busy schedule, Hazzaa took the time to speak to heads of media organisations in the UAE to share his insights on this momentous flight. MBRSC officials also thanked the media for following and documenting Hazzaa’s journey.
The 10-minute live radio call was made possible through the assistance of the Emirates Amateur Radio Society.
During the call, the ISS flew over the UAE, specifically near Al Sila on the Abu Dhabi-Saudi border. The space station was not visible from the UAE, however, as it flew by during the day.
During his eight days in space Hazzaa would have completed 128 orbits of Earth covering 3.1 million miles (4.9 million kilometres), according to Nasa.
Hazzaa's exact return to earth cannot be determined because it depends on wind conditions. However, it is expected to be around 3pm.
During Hazzaa’s interaction with the media, Gulf News Managing Editor Mohammed Al Mezel asked him how his fellow astronauts treated him as Arab from a new country to enter space. Hazzaa replied: “I actually received a very very warm welcome from my counterparts. It was really a huge welcome because a new astronaut from a new country is joining them on the ISS. We even held a traditional Emirati Night where I highlighted the UAE’s history and achievements.”