Hazzaa AlMansoori at the International Space Station last year. Image Credit: Nasa screengrab

Dubai: The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) on Friday celebrated the first anniversary of the historic launch of the first Emirati to space and the first Arab to the International Space Station (ISS).

MBRSC tweeted a video montage of Emirati astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori as he successfully embarked on an eight-day space mission aboard the ISS. AlMansoori was sent to space on-board the Russian spacecraft Soyuz MS-15 at 5.57pm (UAE time) on September 25, 2019 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

“The successful launch was a major achievement for the Arab world and a new dawn for the region’s space sector. The accomplishment was the realisation of the dream of the father of the nation, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and the vision of the UAE leadership to make the country a leading player in shaping the world’s future,” the MBRSC said in a statement sent to Gulf News.

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Pride of the Nation

AlMansoori said: “ I am full of pride that the dream of the Father of our Nation Sheikh Zayed — who envisioned Emiratis to reach space and who taught us that nothing is impossible — was realised. Our journey has been full of challenges, but thanks to the support of our wise leadership and the efforts of the MBRSC, a deep passion for space science has been instilled among the youth of the region. I look forward to continue sharing the knowledge we gain through our journey as astronauts.”

MBRSC noted AlMansoori 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 also conducted experiments involving schools in the UAE as part of MBRSC’s Science in Space initiative.

AlMansoori returned to Earth on October 3. Following the successful mission — and together with reserved astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi — he went on various tours, workshops, conferences and events talking about the importance of STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) as well as the experiences and life of an astronaut. MBRSC noted more than 120,000 people from 35 entities have taken part in these interactive sessions with the Emirati astronauts.

Hazzaa Al Mansoori and Sultan Al Neyadi
Hazzaa Al Mansoori and Sultan AlNeyadi at an interactive session with students before the launch. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Sultan AlNeyadi said: “I remember the launch of Hazzaa like it was just yesterday. It was a very nostalgic moment, as we had trained and prepared for the mission together. Watching Hazzaa on the day of the launch, I felt like I was the one on board the rocket. We are lucky to be part of a country that supports the ambitious vision of its youth and enables them to innovate and contribute to achieve the impossible.”

Continuing space journey

Meanwhile, AlMansoori and AlNeyadi are currently undergoing advanced training at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, USA, as part of the strategic partnership between Nasa and MBRSC to train Emirati astronauts for long-haul space missions, including spacewalk. MBRSC is also shortlisting candidates for the second batch of the UAE Astronaut Programme, which will be announced early next year.

Yousuf Hamad AlShaibani, MBRSC director-general, said: “The wise Emirati leadership has charted a clear future strategy aimed at making the UAE a pioneer across all fronts. The launch of the first Emirati astronaut in space has signalled the arrival of the UAE in regional and global list of spacefaring nations. The UAE Astronaut Programme has also inspired Emirati youth to follow the path of space knowledge and contribute to space sciences.”