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UAE’s first astronaut finalised for ISS mission

Hazzaa AlMansoori will serve as the prime astronaut with Sultan AlNeyadi in backup position for the International Space Station (ISS) mission.
From left: Hazzaa AlMansoori and Sultan AlNeyad.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has selected Hazzaa AlMansoori as the prime astronaut, and Sultan AlNeyadi as the backup astronaut, for the International Space Station (ISS) mission. AlMansoori and AlNeyadi are currently undergoing training at Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, in Star City, in Russia, in preparation for this mission. AlMansoori will fly for an eight-day space mission to ISS, aboard a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on 25 September 2019, and return to Earth aboard a Soyuz-MS 12. Sending the first Arab and Emirati astronaut to ISS is a historic milestone for the UAE.

His Excellency, Yousuf Hamad AlShaibani, Director General of MBRSC, stressed that this announcement is a major step towards achieving the objectives of the UAE Astronaut Programme, to train and prepare a team of Emiratis to be sent to space for various scientific missions. The programme was announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, in 2017.

AlShaibani highlighted that AlMansoori and AlNeyadi are positive role models for Emirati youth who will strive to follow their footsteps, by utilising the resources provided by the UAE leadership. This will motivate younger generations to be eager to explore and innovate, and would prepare generations of Emiratis who can contribute to enhancing the UAE’s status in space science and research, according to sustainable plans and programmes in the space sector, serving ambitious aspirations to achieve a knowledge-based economy in the UAE.

Salem AlMarri, Assistant Director General for Science and Technology Sector, Head of UAE Astronaut Programme, confirmed that the advanced level achieved by AlMansoori and AlNeyadi confirms that Emirati youth have the determination and ambition to succeed in all fields. He highlighted that MBRSC continues to invest in Emirati youth to push this sector forward.

AlMansoori and AlNeyadi are undergoing the same training to ensure that they are ready to travel to ISS. AlMansoori is undergoing his training with the prime team, while AlNeyadi is undergoing his training with the backup team. Each team consists of three astronauts,” added AlMarri.

AlMarri noted that AlMansoori will be the first Arab astronaut to ever be aboard the ISS; he will be presenting a tour inside the ISS in Arabic language, where he will explain the components of the station and the equipment on board. He will also be conducting earth observation and imaging experiences, interacting with ground stations, sharing information, as well as documenting the daily lives of astronauts at the station.

During his stay at ISS, AlMansoori will have a scientific mission to study the impact of microgravity compared to gravity on Earth. This mission includes 15 experiments that will be selected based on MBRSC’s ‘Science in Space’ competition, which targets schools in the UAE. Moreover, the reaction of vital indicators of the human body will be studied before and after the trip to compare with Earth results. This is the first time this kind of research will be done on an astronaut from the Arab region. The results of this study will later be compared with research conducted on astronauts from other regions. Furthermore, AlMansoori will be assigned to complete existing scientific missions at ISS laboratories.

AlMansoori is a Functional Check Flight (FCF) Pilot F-16B60. He graduated from the Khalifa Bin Zayed Air College, which qualified him to become an F-16B60 instructor pilot and a demo pilot, SOLO Demonstration pilot in F-16B60. He was one of the first Arab and Emirati pilots to take part in the Dubai Air Show 50th anniversary of UAE Force, presented a show at the UAE National Day 2017, and the 50th anniversary of UAE Air Force 2018. On the other hand, AlNeyadi is a holder of a PHD in Information Technology (Data Leak age Prevention) and worked as Network Security Engineer for the UAE Armed Forces before joining the UAE Astronaut Programme.

AlMansoori and AlNeyadi were whittled down from a total 4,022 applications to the UAE Astronaut Programme, after a series of advanced medical and psychological tests, as well as personal interviews, according to the highest international standards. The UAE Astronaut Programme is funded by the ICT fund of the TRA. Launched in 2007, this fund, which is the first of its kind in the Arab world, aims towards supporting research and development within the ICT sector in the UAE, helping it to grow into a nationally significant industry with a leading place in the world.