Baikonur, Kazakhstan: One day before their launch to space, the prime and reserve crews for the September 25 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday evening face the media at the Cosmonaut Hotel to share their thoughts and last-minute details about the mission.
Prime crew Emirati astronaut Hazzaa Al Mansoori will lift-off to the ISS at 5.56pm on Wednesday onboard the Soyuz MS15 spacecraft with Russian commander Oleg Skripochka and Nasa astronaut Jessica Meir.
Backup crew Sultan Al Neyadi is on standby with fellow reserve Russian commander Sergey Ryzhikov and NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn.
The prime and reserve crews were answering questions from a room with a glass that would separate them from the media. This is because the crew members are still on quarantine to protect them from exposure to viruses or other illnesses.
Security was tight at the hotel as expected. A police car could be seen outside the gate along with an armored vehicle. Security personnel were also armed with high-powered firearms.
Members of the media were inspected one by one before they were allowed in as part of the security measures.
A song for my mom
When asked if they have chosen a song that will be played while they're sitting on the Soyuz spacecraft before launch, Hazzaa said: "I chose one song for my mom because I believe that we're all here because of our parents. I chose one song for her to thank her."
Hazza’s first words before lift-off
Hazza was asked by Yusuf Abdal Bari from Dubai TV about what he would say before lift-off since Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, has the famous line "Poyekhali" which means "Let's go!" and Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, has another popular line "Houston, we have lift-off."
Hazza said he believes his first line would be: "We rely on the name of the almighty Allah.”
The crowd applauded him for his response.
A natural fit
Jessica Meir, flight engineer 1 during the launch, described Hazza and Sultan as someone who could work with them in Nasa despite the fact that the UAE programme is relatively a new one.
"One of the things I said to my colleagues in Nasa when they asked how they were, I said, They’re amazing. They would fit perfectly in our office... They're a natural fit."
"Hazzaa brings enthusiasm to the table. He has the perfect background for this job being a military pilot. As our first astronaut also was."
When it comes to food, Hazzaa said the other astronauts will get a taste of the Emirati food, something savoury and something sweet.