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Dubai: After eight days in space and approximately 128 orbits around the Earth, astro Hazzaa AlMansoori returned to Earth on Thursday. Here are the events as they unfolded:
With inputs from Janice Ponce de Leon, Staff Reporter

UAE leaders welcome Hazzaa

3.40pm

Two-hour helicopter ride to Karaganda airport

After completing the first round of medical checks, the crew will be on a two-hour helicopter ride to Karaganda airport before flying to Moscow. The crew might hold a press conference from there before Hazzaa and Ovchinin will be flown to Moscow. The MBRSC Team will be flying with Hazzaa.

3.20pm

Video: Hazzaa kisses UAE flag

3.19pm

Hazzaa wrapped in the UAE Flag is being carried to the medical tent by Salem AlMarri, Head of the UAE Astronaut Programme at MBRSC, and Saeed Karmostaji, Manager of the astronauts office at the MBRSC.

3.16pm

First picture of Hazzaa after touchdown. He is smiling!

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Image Credit: NASA
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Image Credit: Nasa
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Image Credit: Nasa

2.59pm

Touchdown. Hazzaa’s back!

Soyuz spacecraft carrying first Emirati astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori and two other astronauts lands in Kazakhstan.

It has landed on its side. The astronauts are feeling well. Russian helicopters are surveying the landing site. It appeared to be a bull's eye touchdown, says Nasa.

The crew commander will release one of the ropes of the parachutes to prevent it from being dragged by the wind.

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Image Credit: NASA

2.59pm

Six rockets at the bottom of the Descent Module will fire up 70cm above ground to further slow down the descent to 5km/h.

2.57pm

Excitement is building up at MBRSC, Dubai. Students are recording the descent, eagerly talking one another as their eyes are glued to the screen.

2.55pm

Search and Recovery operations have established communications with the crew and they report that they are feeling well.

Less than six minutes until touchdown.

2.50pm

Everything has proceeded in perfect fashion, says Nasa command centre. Touchdown in under 10 minutes. 

2.47pm

Parachute deployed

Parchute that will help Soyuz land safely deployed.

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Image Credit: NASA

2.44pm

Communication with Soyuz has been restored.

"We are feeling well," Ovchinin said after passing through the plasma layer. "We are entering the atmosphere. We can feel it," Ovchinin

2.42pm

Four minutes away from deployment of parachutes.

2.39

Soyuz in the plasma zone. There won't be any communications while they are in this zone.

After this is the final phase of re-entry. This is the “most stressful part of the journey”, according to ESA. By this time, the crew will start to feel the pull of the Earth’s gravity.

The crew experience a maximum G-load of 4G during descent at an altitude of 35km. This means they could feel several times heavier than their normal weight on Earth.

The Soyuz is able to course correct to keep the spacecraft on track of the planned trajectory.

At an altitude of 10.5km, the Soyuz would have dramatically slowed down to 800km/h from 28,000km/hour. The drogue parachute will be jettisoned automatically to further decrease its speed.

The astronats are feeling the effects of Earth's gravity.

2.36pm

The Soyuz will enter a layer of plasma with extreme temperatures of 1,371 degrees Celsius. The plasma will build up around the Soyuz and  communications will be lost during this time.

The Descent Module has a special protective coating and a heat shield on its base to withstand extreme temperatures during re-entry.

2.35pm

Separation has been initiated. The top and bottom parts of the spacecraft will be jettisoned and will burn up. Vehicle systems reported to be in excellent shape. Two minutes until re-entry.

2.30pm

Standing by for separation time happening in 3minutes.

We are 31 minutes before expected touchdown. Standing by for separation time happening in 3minutes.

2.17pm

Module separation to start in 17minutes.

2.15pm

Soyuz is heading towards Earth and will soon land at Zhezqazghan in Kazakhstan at around 3pm, UAE time.

2.13am

Soyuz spacecraft with Hazzaa AlMansoori and other astronauts completes de-orbit burn, touchdown on Earth in 45 minutes.

2.11pm

Standing by for engine shutdown.

2.10pm

"One minute into the burn, everything is looking good," NASA announcer said. Change in velocity going on as planned. Everything is nominal. "Soyuz vehicle is now committed to de-orbit."

2.06am

Soyuz spacecraft with Hazzaa AlMansoori and other astronauts begins deorbit burn in its journey towards Earth.

De-orbit burn has begun. This should last for 4mins42secs to force the Soyuz to slow down as it re-enters Earth's atmosphere.

2.00pm

6 minutes now from de-orbit. Aircraft are airborne now heading towards the landing site.

1.51pm

The Soyuz is currently flying along with ISS over the southern tip of South America. Crew is standing by for next critical operation: the deorbit burn at 2.06pm, UAE time.

At MBRSC, Dubai, videos of the UAE' space journey by the National Geographic being played as the wait continues for the de-orbit burn at 2.06pm.

The main hall is packed with MBRSC and other government officials. The side halls accommodate students to watch the landing. They are fewer in number now compared to the launch and during the live calls.

1.45pm

Where will Hazzaa Almansoori land?

1.33pm

Soyuz now around 60 miles away from ISS, getting ready for a de-orbit burn.

11.45am

De-orbit burn scheduled at 2.06

Soyuz is now poised for its return to Earth. De-orbit burn scheduled at 2.06pm, UAE time.

The de-orbit burn is a process where the main engine fires up for about 4mins and 42 seconds to slow down the Soyuz to about 128meters per second in order to change its trajectory as it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere.

The dense layers of the atmosphere “act as natural brakes” until the Soyuz parachute opens, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

11.38am

Undocking confirmed at 11.37am

Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft carrying Emirati astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori, Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Nasa astronaut Nick Hague undocks from ISS.

Undocking was done while the ISS was over southeast Mongolia.

While the spacecraft drifts away from the station, the crew will monitor the cameras and instruments onboard the spacecraft to monitor their separation distance from the station.

11.36am

Undocking process initiated

All systems clear. Undocking command has been issued.

The Flight Director from Roscosmos has given the green light for undocking.

Crew commander Ovchinin has issued the command for the Soyuz to unhook from the station. These hooks are the only mechanical devices that connect the spacecraft to the station. This process could take three to four minutes.

Once fully unhooked from the station, springs on both sides will then gently push the spacecraft for it to physically separate from the station at a speed of 0.1 metres per second. No thrusters will be used to prevent docking port contamination.

11.29pm

All Soyuz systems operating normally, as per Mission Control from Houston.

11.25am

Soyuz de-orbit and rentry details

11.20am

Minutes away from undocking

We're 16 minutes away from initiation of undocking sequence.

11.19am

How will Hazzaa land?

11.18am

Search and recovery vehicles are ready to retrieve the astronauts once they land

11.15am

"Thanks to all who worked on this great mission and supported us to achieve Zayed’s ambitions. We just began, and we will be back soon," Hazzaa tweeted at 11.11am.

11.10am

Undocking as per schedule

Undocking of the Soyuz will take place in another 27 minutes

11.05am

"Thanks to all who worked on this great mission and supported us to achieve Zayed’s ambitions. We just began, and we will be back soon," Hazzaa tweeted at 11.11am.

8.23am

Hatch closed

Soyuz hatch is now is closed as confirmed by the Russian Mission Control.

Once inside the spacecraft, the three crew members will don their Sokol spacesuits and conduct leak checks. This procedure is important as the spacesuit will be their lifeline in case of cabin depressurisation.

8.20am

Hatch closing begins

Hatch closing ceremony has begun. Alexey Ovchinin, Soyuz commander, waves goodbye to camera. He is followed by Hazzaa and Nick Hague. Hague will be on the left seat as Flight Engineer 1 while Hazzaa will be seated to Ovchinin's right.

8.19am

Astronauts enter space module

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Hazzaa and team
Image Credit: Nasa

8.15am

Hatch still open

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Image Credit: Nasa

8.10am

Expected weather during landing

Weather in Zhezqazghan in Kazakhstan during the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft landing is expected to be sunny with clear skies, according to Accuweather. A gentle breeze coming from the east with speeds of 13km/h is expected, reaching 17km/h at times. The mercury will be at 17C and no rain is expected. Visibility is clear up to 16km. Currently, the ISS is flying over the Indian Ocean.



Time for farewell

Hazzaa AlMansoori, Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin are getting ready to say farewell and close the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship hatch before undocking and landing on Earth.



7.55am

Hazzaa rings the bell

Hazzaa AlMansoori, Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin all set for entry into the space module for return to Earth.

In a recorded video during last night's ceremony being played during the live event for the hatch closing, Hazza rings the bell during the change of command of the ISS from Alexey Ovchinin to ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano. Ovchinin will be in command of the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft that will take him and Hazzaa and Nasa astronaut Nick Hague home.

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Image Credit: Screengrab/YouTube

7.45am

The hatch of the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship will close in another 30 minutes. 

7.30am

Hatch to close at 8.15am

Astronauts Hazzaa and Alexey Ovchinin will enter their Soyuz MS-12 crew ship and say farewell to the six station crewmembers staying on the orbiting lab.

Hatch of the Soyuz MS-12 crew ship will close at 12.15 ET, which is 8.15 UAE time Thursday



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Undocking, reentry and landing explained



The spacecraft is expected to touch down at around 3pm on the south east of the remote town of Zhezqazghan, in Kazakhstan. This is roughly 700-km away from where he took off from in Baikonur on September 25.

Landing time is scheduled at around 3pm according to Nasa, plus or minus one to two minutes depending on wind conditions.

With Hazzaa on his return trip are Russian commander Alexey Ovchinin and Nasa astronaut Nick Hague. The crew will go through some medical procedures upon landing and then will be flown on a helicopter to Karaganda Airport.

From there, Hazzaa and the UAE Astronaut Programme Team from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) will fly to Moscow for post-mission medical check-ups until mid-October.

During his short-duration flight on the ISS, Hazzaa would have covered a distance of 4.9 million kilometres. That’s equivalent to six return trips to the moon and back.

On his last night on the ISS, Hazzaa shared snaps of the UAE at night and selfies on his favourite spot on the ISS, the famed observation deck called cupola.