UAE's first astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori talks about friends he made in space

Nandini Sircar/Dubai
Filed on May 27, 2021
Reuters file photo

AlMansoori looks back on his historic mission in 2019

It’s easy to think that space — with its vast, limitless expanse, where Earth is nothing but a pale blue dot — can be a lonely place. But for astronauts Hazzaa AlMansoori and Jessica Meir, it is a place where some of the best friendships are formed.

“I distinctly remember when we first reached space…Every small bit of debris that had settled at the bottom of the capsule, everything was just lifting up in front of us.I looked at Hazza and our eyes just met and we were just thinking we did it, we are in space,” Meir, a Nasa astronaut known for her first all-female spacewalk, said during a webinar on Wednesday.

“It was so powerful to have that kind of connection,” she said. “We are so fortunate to share that as astronauts because it is so difficult to put in words how incredible it feels to be in space and that bonds us together as space explorers.”

AlMansoori, the first Emirati astronaut, blasted off to space in September 2019 together with Meir and Russia’s cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka. In his historic mission, AlMansoori spent eight days in the International Space Station.

Reminiscing the moment etched in his mind forever, he said: “I still remember that moment when I was playing with the tablet’s pen and I saw it was floating. To me it was magical. I was like wow! It’s floating. We were like kids entering a candy shop getting amazed with everything happening around us. Trying to experience the weightlessness and looking outside at Earth from there was spectacular.”

Space is a place where lines are blurred and borders disappear, AlMansoori said. “Usually people want to see their country first but then (in space) you realise after a while that you are looking at Earth and not borders.

“We deliver that message to everyone on ground here, that we collaborate and work together to make this mission successful together. We managed to do that because we all had one goal…to explore and to conduct science and work together.”

Meir heaped praises on AlMansoori, saying his positive spirit has lifted them all.

As AlMansoori looks back on his historic mission, he treasures not only the big moments but also every little precious memory.

Sharing a touching moment, he said: “After I came back from space, Jessica remembered my birthday. She posted this image — Happy Birthday from Space. This is something I will never forget. I was down here and it was amazing to get a greeting from space.”

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