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Space explorers are united by a common language, says UAE's first astronaut

Dubai - Hazzaa AlMansoori looks back on his historic space mission and how the UAE made the impossible possible.

By Nandini Sircar

Published: Sun 20 Jun 2021, 3:35 AM

In exploring the cosmos, the world speaks one language and that’s science, the UAE’s first astronaut has said, as he shared how space missions can unite countries despite differences.

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Taking a break from his 30-month intensive training programme at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) in the US, Emirati astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori recently attended the Global Space Exploration Conference (GLEX) 2021 in Russia and spoke about how the UAE made the impossible possible.

Watch: UAE astronauts Hazza and Sultan undergo survival training at NASA

International partnerships, he said, helped the Emirates pull off several historic space missions in just a few years.

“Despite our different backgrounds and beliefs when it comes to space exploration, the one thing that will always unite us is that we speak one common language which is science, and that’s the most important thing,” AlMansoori said, addressing over 700 people from 32 nations who came together for GLEX. At the onsite event, countries have made high-level commitments to continue international collaborations in space.

AlMansoori had always dreamt of being an astronaut but back in the 1990s, he found it impossible as the UAE had no space infrastructure yet. “However, despite being a small country, the UAE had the vision and decided to build its own capabilities in space,” he said.

“The UAE started to build its own space agency in 2006 and we decided to work with different countries. We believe that working with different countries will be an enriching experience and that will help us push our frontiers. So we built our own satellites in 2010 and we established our own space human flight programme in cooperation with Roscosmos. We were on our first flight to space in 2019. I was on board that flight with my Russian colleague Oleg Skripochka and Nasa astronaut Jessica Meir,” he added.

AlMansoori spent eight days on board the International Space Station (ISS) in 2019. Now, he is currently undergoing training at Nasa in Houston, Texas, with his colleague Sultan Al Neyadi.

The recent success of the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), led by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), also entailed working with a group of knowledge partners from around the world. This included experts from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder, Arizona State University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

For the country’s upcoming lunar mission, the MBRSC has signed an agreement with Japan’s ispace, which will provide payload delivery services to the UAE.

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Pursuing the ultimate goal of creating a more inclusive world and inspiring the youth with a call to reach for the stars, AlMansoori said: “It was an amazing experience going to space. Back home, I have shared it with my people, especially with the younger generation. Through these conferences, international cooperation and collaboration with different countries, we can achieve many milestones.

“Last year, we launched our Emirates Mars Mission and this year we were successful in establishing our first orbiter around Mars. The orbiter is now taking pictures of the Red Planet for the entire scientific community around the world. We wouldn’t have been able to do all these without international cooperation, without young minds and young engineers in different places collaborating with different agencies from various nations. Therefore, it’s really important to work together.”

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