In 2019, UAE became a part of an elite group of countries that have sent a person into space. This was a dream come true for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. He had envisioned a dream in which UAE sent its first astronaut into space. Thanks to the willingness and dedication of Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati astronaut to enter space, UAE has another golden feather in its hat to be proud of.
Carrying the hopes of a nation on his shoulder is no mean task, yet Hazza Al Mansouri took it one step at a time. His service helped UAE to celebrate a very important achievement. When Hazza Ali Mansouri visited the International Space Station (ISS), UAE became the 19th country to do so. Among the other Arab countries, only the Saudi Prince Sultan Bin Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud and Muhammed Faris from Syria have been to space. Their missions but were in the 1980s.
1. How was Hazza Al Mansouri Selected?
The selection process for UAE’s first astronaut began in December 2017. As much as 4022 candidates applied for being a part of UAE’s prestigious mission. But the country can only send one person and that person ought to be the best of the best. So, selecting the best person among the 4022 applicants was indeed a daunting task for the officials from Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre.
The first test for the candidates was about the various subjects of science, technology, math and physics. The knowledge of space of the candidates was also tested. The preliminary test was cleared only by 400 candidates. After the second round of test, only 95 candidates remained. After that came the medical test which cleared 39 candidates as possible choices. These candidates were given the chance to showcase their intelligence, aptitude, personality and cognitive ability.
The top 9 candidates, among these 39 candidates were shortlisted and assessed by Russian space experts. 2 candidates were shortlisted from the 9 people. One was Hazza Al Mansouri, a military pilot and the other Sultan Al Neyadi.
Hazza and Al Neyadi received training from internationally reputed experts of the space. They were also sent to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration – NASA (US), Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre (Russia) and the European Space Agency (Germany) for training. After the training, in April, it was announced that Hazza Al Mansouri will be the first Emirati astronaut and Sultan Al Neyadi will be his back up. There was a final qualification exam in September 2019, which they passed. They flew to Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Here, they prepared for the final launch, which was set for 25 September 2019. For 8 days Hazza Al Mansouri was at the ISS and returned back to earth on 3 October 2019.
2. Which was the Spacecraft Selected for the Mission?
A Russian Soyuz MS-15 was spacecraft selected for the mission.
3. What is the Purpose of the Mission?
The purpose of the team for this 8-day mission is to conduct as much as 15 experiments on the impact of microgravity. The set of experiments were selected by conducting a ‘Science in Space’ event held by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre. In this event, various schools in the UAE prepared for the experiments and the students were tasked with conducting those experiments here on earth. The purpose was to study the difference between the two sets of results. Another area of study was understanding how the body of Al Mansouri reacts to being in space.
4. What Hazza Al Mansouri had to say about the Mission?
UAE’s most popular man Hazza Al Mansouri was so excited being able to be a part of a great mission. What he has to say was:
“It will be a great honour to be the first Emirati astronaut to reach the ISS. I applied for the program because I had a dream as a boy and our leaders encourage us to achieve our dreams.”
He believes that hoisting the flag of his country will inspire many others to dream big and achieve those dreams. He hopes that his service will inspire a new generation of astronauts.
By hoisting the flag of the UAE at ISS, he hopes to inspire a new generation of Emirati astronauts.
5. What will be the Future of the UAE Space Program?
The United Arab Emirates may be a new entrant into the space programme, but it is a country that does everything with its sights fixed firmly on the future. This mission is developed as a stepping stone for future exploration. The plans for an unmanned mission to Mars has already been set into motion. UAE is planning to land on Mars while the nation is celebrating its 50th anniversary of the state in 2021. The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre is functioning with the aim of unravelling more secrets of the space and universe.
Thanks to Al Mansouri’s voyage, the government is providing better opportunities for the younger generation. This mission is a stepping stone towards a brighter future of the United Arab Emirates.