Astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori receives hero's welcome in UAE
Abu Dhabi - He was received by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed.
Hazzaa AlMansoori got a royal welcome as he returned to the UAE after becoming the first Emirati in space and the first Arab on the International Space Station (ISS). His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, received Hazzaa and his mission's backup astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi as they landed at Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi on Saturday evening.
Military planes painted the skies in the UAE flag colours as Hazzaa and his team stepped out of the presidential flight at 4.51pm. Dressed in an astronaut blue jumpsuit with the UAE flag around his neck, he stepped out of the flight amid cheers from those gathered there, including his children. Sheikh Mohamed embraced Hazzaa, who presented the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince with the UAE flag he had taken to space. Hazzaa's kids then cheerfully greeted their father with bouquets of flowers and hugs.
In true Emirati style, artists put up a traditional folk music and dance show for the two astronauts.
The airport was decorated with a massive photograph of Hazzaa and Sultan, photos of them in their sokol suits, and a picture of the Soyuz rocket which took Hazzaa to space. The building also had a portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan with the UAE space mission's logo next to it - representing that 'Zayed's Ambition' of reaching space had been achieved.
Hamad AlMansoori, chairman of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC); Yousuf Al Shaibani, director-general of the MBRSC; Salem Al Marri, head of the UAE Astronaut Programme; Hanan Al Suwaidi, the astronaut's flight doctor; and other top officials accompanied the astronauts on the flight from Moscow.
So much more to learn: Hazzaa
Addressing the crowd after his arrival, Hazzaa said: "We studied how countries managed to reach space. And then we started from where they ended, and built on that. The UAE is part of a massive system as per the space vision of the leadership. We have participated in 16 experiments on the ISS. We collected some samples before the mission and compared them with some samples on the ISS.
"It was really special for them to have an Arab astronaut to be involved in these tests. We have learned so much and there is still much to learn. We promise to share the results of these experiments with you all, and the new generation - our hope for a bright future. There are still so many challenges, but the children of Zayed are up to them all."
Al Marri also addressed the crowd at the airport, saying that the ISS has helped mankind do experiments that cannot be done on earth. He said space plays a major role in advancing human life as "it helps us develop important technology and make new discoveries".
"Some interesting experiments were carried out on the ISS a few days back; the astronauts tried to grow meat in space for the first time. Space turned out to be a better place to grow meat than earth," Al Marri said. "Another interesting thing about the ISS is that it has a fully integrated water filtration system. They recycle and reuse all the water there. These space-based systems are now in use in some remote parts of Africa."
Al Marri said that Emiratis will return to space. "This is not going to be a once-in-lifetime mission. Like we promised our leaders in 2017, we will go back again to space and do more experiments."
The results of Hazzaa's experiments are expected to be released some time this month. Most of the experiments focussed on the impact of micro gravity on the human body. Even though this study has been done by other astronauts before, Hazzaa's results will be unique as he is the first Arab to go to the ISS and will shed new light on Arab genetics.
(With inputs from Ahmed Shaaban)