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Photos: What UAE astronauts are up to before taking off to space

What, Emirati, astronauts, are up to, before, taking off to space, Hazza Al Mansoori, rocket off, astronauts, Kazakhstan, Cosmonaut Hotel
The astronauts have been living under strict quarantine since September 10.- Photo by Sarwat Nasir/Khaleej Times

Khaleej Times is in Kazakhstan, tracking Al Mansoori and his back up Sultan Al Neyadi as they wait for the September 25 launch.

By Sarwat Nasir

Published: Wed 18 Sep 2019, 5:30 PM

Last updated: Fri 20 Sep 2019, 3:19 PM

In less than a week the UAE's first astronaut, Hazza Al Mansoori, will rocket off into space - making history for the Arab world.
Khaleej Times is in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, tracking Al Mansoori and his back up Sultan Al Neyadi as they wait for the September 25 launch.

They are staying at the Cosmonaut Hotel, which is an exclusive residence for all astronauts and cosmonauts who are under quarantine two weeks ahead of liftoff day. Despite the quarantine, KT got access inside the hotel and followed the UAE astronauts for the day, while wearing our medical suits to keep the space travelers safe from any potential outside bacteria.
Both of the astronauts took part in some Russian space traditions on Wednesday, including showing their ability to operate the Soyuz space craft, playing some board games, showing the media some of the medical tests they took during their training and a tree-planting ceremony.
Astronauts take a Soyuz test
UAE's first Emirati astronaut Hazza Al Mansoori and his crew, American astronaut Jessica Meir and Russian commander Oleg Skripockha, participated in an exam where they were required to show their readiness to operate the Soyuz spacecraft.
This test ensured they can manually operate the Soyuz and they also signed some documents related to the spacecraft. Al Mansoori's backup Sultan Al Neyadi and his crewmates, Thomas Mashburn and Sergey Ryzhikov, also took the test and did the signing.
It's play time for the UAE astronauts
Even though the astronauts have been living under strict quarantine since September 10, they showed us how they still have fun and interact with colleagues by playing board games and billiards. Daily sports activities are meant to keep them fresh and relaxed. Al Mansoori challenged his crew mate Meir to a round of chess. He's very competitive and so is Al Neyadi as we watched him play billiards.
Going to space requires physical and mental strength
The primary and backup crew showed the media how tough some of their medical exams were. The brave astronauts took the rotating chair test for us, which is meant to familiarize their bodies to motion sickness. Another one was the tilting table - it measures the blood flow to the brain to ensure their bodies can handle microgravity.
Planting trees to signify life on Earth and space
An Elm sapling was planted separately by each astronaut in the primary and backup crew at the Cosmonaut Alley. This is part of a Russian tradition that has been followed by astronauts for decades. Yuri Gagrin, the first man who went to space in 1961, planted the first one as a representation of life on Earth and in space. Al Mansoori and Al Neyadi were all smiles as they planted their tree, becoming the first Emiratis to have their name in the Alley.

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