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UAE astronaut Hazzaa opens up about life after space mission

Sarwat Nasir
Filed on November 5, 2019 | Last updated on November 5, 2019 at 06.21 am
Hazza, Hazzaa AlMansoori, Al Mansoori, uae astronaut, astronaut, space, space mission, uae in space

Hazzaa and reserve astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi addressed the Young Professionals in Space conference.

It's been a month since the UAE's first astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori returned to Earth and he can't even go to his local mosque without getting swarmed by people curious about life on the International Space Station (ISS). On Monday, Hazzaa and reserve astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi addressed the Young Professionals in Space conference - a three-day event being hosted by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC).

During the panel session, the astronaut opened up about the selection process, what it was like staying in quarantine, his thoughts minutes before liftoff and what life has been like since he returned.

Life in the spotlight

"After I arrived in the UAE, I went to the mosque on the second day. I saw some kids there during maghrib prayer and they surrounded me, asking questions," Hazzaa said.

"The next day, I went to the mosque and it was full. I was surprised with the number of kids there. They were waiting for me outside and I stayed there until Ishaa prayer, answering questions. It's important to inspire the next generation."

He went to a small park with his wife and four kids recently. It wasn't long until the crowd noticed it was the UAE astronaut and quickly surrounded him. "Then my wife said: 'That's it, we are not going anywhere else'!"

'Are you leaving us forever?'

When Hazzaa first applied for the UAE Astronaut Programme, his wife was quite emotional. "When I started telling her about the programme, she said: 'Ok, now you are leaving us forever'.

"I'm bringing up this story because it's very important that we educate the people who don't have much interest in this sector. I love space and started to share it with my kids by hanging stars on our ceiling and telling them stories. They weren't so interested at first but when they saw me in space, it was a different story."

Praying for dear life

'Oh God, please let this rocket work and let it take us to space': These were the final thoughts of Hazzaa as he was going up to the rocket via an elevator. Even though he revealed his personal thoughts with a laugh and in a lighthearted manner, he said he was "praying very hard" on launch day - September 25. He said he was worried because there are "many risk factors" involved with rocket launches.

"Even if there is a two-minute delay, it could've caused us to circle around Earth for two days before getting the opportunity to dock with the ISS."

Health scare before launch

All astronauts are kept in quarantine for about 10 days before launch day. This is to ensure they don't fall sick and risk the mission. But when Hazzaa woke up "feeling sick" three days into quarantine, he got really worried. Even though the doctor had asked him if he was feeling sick, he denied it and thought it'd go by night. He later admitted it to the doctor after he asked him again. The doctor revealed that he was feeling that way because they had put small pieces of wood at the end of his bed, so his head remains titled down. "It was to give us the feeling of blood rushing to the brain. That way, when we reach space, we'd be familiar with that feeling."

Support from backup astronaut

The mission's backup astronaut Sultan was also praying for his colleague as he entered the rocket.

"During the launch day, I was in the control room and following all of the procedures Hazzaa was doing. Everything was going nominally. During launch, I was at a different observation point. I was excited and praying for him. It was a mixture of emotions. The whole year and one month we spent training came down to that moment. Even after they reached space, I wasn't 100 per cent relaxed because they still had six hours to go until they reached the ISS and then dock. I only was relaxed and happy when I saw the hatch open and Hazzaa was entering with the big smile."


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