190923 hazzaa
Hazzaa AlMansoori Image Credit: Twitter

This is the ninth report in a 10-day countdown for the launch of UAE’s first man in space.

Dubai: The UAE Mission 1 to the International Space Station (ISS) on September 25 would be a “giant leap” for Emiratis that will push the UAE space programme forward as it sees its first astronaut raise the country’s flag in space.

Emirati prime astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori will represent the UAE in space as the 19th visiting country to the ISS and its 240th visitor. This momentous event will make him the first Emirati in space and the first Arab on the giant floating laboratory.

AlMansoori will head to space with Russian commander Oleg Skripochka and Nasa astronaut Jessica Meir onboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft. Their launch will take place at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the same space port that Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin when launched to space to become the first man in space in April 1969.

Reserve Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi will also be at Baikonur with Russian commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Thomas Marshburn from Nasa.


Here are your astronaut questions answered:

Why is the UAE sending an astronaut to space?

The first mission to space is part of the UAE’s Astronaut Programme under the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) that aims to train and prepare an astronaut corps to be sent to space for scientific missions. The UAE has stressed that this programme is a sustainable one and that UAE Mission 1 is just the beginning.

Who is the astronaut who will go to space?

The prime crew is Hazzaa AlMansoori, 35, worked as a military pilot flying the F-16 jet before being chosen as to become the UAE’s first astronaut from 4,022 candidates. The father of four hails from Abu Dhabi and completed his Bachelor of Aviation Science degree from Khalifa bin Zayed Air College in 2004.

Sultan Al Neyadi, 38, is the back-up astronaut who will take over should the need arise. He worked as a military network security engineer in the UAE Armed Forces before becoming an astronaut. He is married with four kids.

When is the trip?

Hazzaa’s journey to the ISS is on September 25 at 5.56pm (UAE time). The trip is estimated to take around six hours. But it only takes the astronauts around nine minutes to escape the Earth’s gravity. Once they reach the desired altitude, the “chase” will begin. The spacecraft will fly after the ISS Docking on the ISS is scheduled at midnight and the hatch that connects the spacecraft to the ISS will open at 2am, September 26. He will stay in space for eight days and return to Earth on October 3 with an expected landing time of 2.58pm.

How will he reach space?

Hazzaa and his crewmates will board a Soyuz launch vehicle, which is a three-stage rocket that is powerful enough to launch them to space. He will use the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft on his trip to space.

What is the ISS?

The ISS is a giant floating laboratory orbiting the Earth at an altitude of around 400km. It revolves around the Earth every 90 minutes or 16 times a day at a speed of 17,000miles per hour, giving its inhabitants 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets. This engineering marvel allows for humans to live and work in space, conducting more than 250 researches every year that help improve life on Earth.

Why do we have to go to space?

Going to space allows humans to conduct experiments that cannot be done on Earth. They take advantage of zero gravity and its effects on the human body and other matter. A lot of technology that we use today have come about because of researches done in space that includes weather satellites, mapping softwares, camera phones, wireless headsets and many more.

What will Hazzaa do in space?

Hazzaa will conduct 16 scientific experiments particularly on the effect of microgravity on the human body. He will also conduct Earth observation and imaging and hold tour the Arab world live inside the ISS in Arabic. A traditional Emirati night is also on schedule where he will share Emirati dishes with his space colleagues. His full 8-day schedule can be found on https://gulfnews.com/uae/science.

What will he take to space?

A copy of the Quran, a copy of the ‘Qissati’ of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, a 100 per cent silk UAE Flag, 30 seeds of Al Ghaf trees, materials for the scientific research such as inflatable balls representing Mars and Earth, Emirati food, personal belongings including pictures of his family and other personal items, and photo of Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan with the Apollo 17 Team.

How will Hazzaa return to Earth?

A Soyuz MS-12 rocket that is on standby on the ISS will be his ride home on October 3. He will be flying with Russian commander Alexey Ovchinin and Nasa astronaut Nick Hague. The trip will take roughly around 3.5 hours.

At least one Soyuz spacecraft is stationed on the ISS to serve as a life boat for astronauts. They may use this as an escape vehicle should an emergency evacuation be required.

The returning spacecraft will undock from the space station at 11.36am. The Orbital and Instrumentation and Service Module will be jettisoned and burn up as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere. The Descent Module (middle part) where the crew members are seated will re-enter Earth and will be protected by a heat shield.

A parachute will be deployed automatically once it reaches the assigned altitude to and thrusters at the bottom of the module will fire up to slow down the descent. This is after the heat shield has detached from the module.

Hazzaa and the crew are expected to land at 2.58pm in Dzhezkazgan, Kazakthstan, which is 661.5km from the launch site according to Nasa. They will be taken to Baikonur for a medical check-up before they are flown to Moscow for further tests.

How will the astronauts feel during the descent?

Many astronauts have described the re-entry as the “ultimate roller coaster ride”. As they enter Earth, the last stages of the descent can be brutal to the body. The strong acceleration can put extreme pressure on the astronauts — plus they will again feel the effects of gravity upon re-entry.

One astronaut once described how he felt during re-entry as “as feeling like being in a head-on collision with a truck while on a small car”.

How can we take part in this journey?

You may watch the launch on www.gulfnews.com on September 25 or Nasa’s official livestream and connect with Hazzaa during his eight-day stay on the ISS. He will conduct four live sessions called space-to-Earth calls where students will get a chance to ask questions live. You may post your questions on Twitter with the hashtag #AskHazzaa.