Hazzaa takes the first step in UAE's journey to Mars
UAE astronaut Hazzaa Ali AlMansoori speaks during a final news conference ahead of the mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.- Reuters
It was a decade before the UAE was formed that Russia's Yuri Gagarin became the first person to enter space in 1961.
It's time for a cosmic boom in the UAE and across the Arab world. It's time to realise the vision of the UAE's Founding Father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. It's time to make history. At 5.57pm UAE time today, space traveller No. 564 Hazzaa AlMansoori is set to lift-off onboard Russia's Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft. UAE Mission 1 to the International Space Station (ISS) will fulfil a long-cherished dream of the nation's rulers and leaders, of millions of Emiratis, and of the entire Arab world when Hazzaa becomes the first Emirati in space and the first Arab to visit ISS.
It was a decade before the UAE was formed that Russia's Yuri Gagarin became the first person to enter space in 1961. In 1976, the visionary Sheikh Zayed met with US astronauts and members of the Apollo space programme. During that meeting, the late Sheikh Zayed was presented a tiny piece of Moon rock, a gift to the UAE by former US President Richard Nixon. While that piece of history remains on display in the Al Ain Museum, today, the UAE is set to make history of its own as it joins the elite ranks of nations whose citizens have been to space, becoming the 41st country to do so. The UAE will be the 19th visiting country to the ISS and Hazzaa will be the 240th visitor to the giant floating lab.
But Hazzaa's trip to outer space isn't just a numerical achievement. It epitomises the accomplishments and ambitions of an entire nation, the energy and enthusiasm of an entire region, and the hopes and aspirations of an entire generation. Hazzaa's rocket will take a mere nine minutes to escape the Earth's gravity, and from then on, the UAE's quest for exploration, for 16 experiments in the 'right' environment - microgravity of the space - will begin. Hazzaa's experiments aboard the ISS include documenting the effect of microgravity on cell growth, microorganisms, genes, grass seed germination rates, fungi and algae, the effect of antibiotics on bacteria, basic chemical reactions in space, and other physical, biological and chemical experiments.
Space remains the final frontier for mankind, a challenge that countries - now including the UAE - have accepted. Space exploration and the quest to probe the unknown is also a collaborative initiative that has helped nations on earth to come together and combine their resources in a bid to improve the future for fellow humans. Hazzaa's space odyssey is set to inspire a generation of Emirati and Arab kids, igniting their interest and curiosity in space science and tech, stimulating a thirst for knowledge and triggering a tsunami of awareness.
The UAE Space Agency was founded in July 2014, laying the groundwork for the UAE's space exploration programme. The UAE Astronaut Programme was launched in April 2017 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 Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, with the objective to train and prepare the first Emirati astronaut corps to be sent to space for various scientific missions. With the full support of the UAE Space Agency, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre is responsible for managing the programme, which is a major milestone in the UAE's quest to develop the space sector in the UAE and the Arab world, including the 2020 Hope Mars Mission.
Inspired by Hazzaa's flight to outer space, Khaleej Times is dedicating our editions of September 25 and 26, 2019, to the UAE Space Mission. The livery that you see on the top of all editorial pages today track the nation's historic journey, efforts and endeavours that have made it possible for the first Emirati to conquer space. Today marks a new beginning, a new chapter in the UAE's quest for excellence, for mankind's hunt for data that can help improve our lives. Godspeed, Hazzaa. We wish you all the best and shall wait for your safe return.