Dubai: Meet Captain Hamish Harding, a long-time UAE resident of British origin who is a die-hard serial adventurist. Just back from a sub-orbital space flight aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origins NS-21 sub orbital rocket system on June 4, Captain Harding said it was the innovative spirit of UAE, his home for 20 years, that helped him push his boundaries.
Captain Harding, 57, who is the chairperson and founder of Action Aviation, an aircraft brokerage company in the UAE, spoke to Gulf News after returning from a successful fifth human space flight mission, as part of the six-member crew of astronauts aboard the Jeff Bezos Blue Origin NS-21 sub-orbital rocket system which took off from a desert in Texas.
Describing the incredibe adventure, for which he lost around 9kg weight in six weeks, Captain Harding said, “We were in a capsule within the rocket and we ascended past the Karman Line, 100km from earth, experienced weightlessness, watched the beautiful earth from a distance with the atmosphere looking like a thin layer. It was an amazing experience, “
Captain Harding, who is also chair of the Middle East chapter of the Explorers Club, an international organisation founded in New York in 1904 for advancement of exploration and scientific enquiry, said the UAE has been one of the driving forces behind his adventurous pursuits.
“I have been to the depths of the ocean and out into the space and in a few weeks about to explore the wreck of the Titanic near Greenland. In all my endeavours, it is the UAE which has inspired me. Ever since I set up my home here 20 years ago, I have never ceased to be amazed by the spirit of adventure in this country, which is always striving to achieve the biggest, the fastest. Records in excellence in this country has always helped me push my boundaries.”
While his love for adventure began when he was five years old and he watched astronauts successfully reach the moon, Captain Harding feels living in the UAE helped nurture this spirit. “In the UAE, there are so many things to do. It is easily one of the greatest skydiving locations on earth, has some of the finest scuba diving sites on the east coast. People can go mountain climbing, sky diving, scuba diving, and achieve so many adventurous milestones here. The UAE has been a pioneer in the Space mission in the Middle East and can easily become the second launch site for sub-orbital flights for Blue Origin, after the Mexican desert.”
Always be ready for adventure
His message to the younger generation is to nurture the spirit of exploration and scientific enquiry. “The first thing people must do is always say yes to missions and then work out the manner in which to achieve them later. The UAE offers plenty of things to help hone your adventure streak. In cooler weather, I strongly recommend that people climb the tallest peak, Jebel Jais of the UAE. This mountain at an altitude of 6,000 feet is imminently doable. Once mountain climbing is done, take up scuba diving, sky diving, build up your spirit to achieve bigger and bigger goals.”
After success in space, Captain Harding is all set to take off for the seas near Greenland with another crew to examine the underwater shipwreck site of the Titanic. “I leave in 10 days. We will be diving up to 4km under sea to see the extent of damage or corrosion of the wreck. We will have to be very careful around this wreck.”