Seeing Earth from space is surreal: UAE astronauts

UAE space ecosystem rife for private players, reiterate Hazzaa Al Mansouri


Nandini Sircar

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Hazzaa Al Mansoor. Photo: File
Hazzaa Al Mansoor. Photo: File

Published: Mon 15 Nov 2021, 7:31 PM

Seeing the planet Earth from deep space is a humbling and emotional experience, astronauts said while speaking at the Fish Tank Talks held on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow on Monday.

The UAE’s top astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri, talking about his moment in space during the ISS mission, said, “For me the most striking thing was seeing Earth from space. It was amazing to see different continents, deserts, jungles and oceans. You move so fast and try to observe everything in that moment and you are floating at the same time. I think that’s unique. Besides, you see the darkness of space behind you. That moment, I will not forget, and I learnt that we reach that point by working and collaborating together."

Apollo 16 Moonwalker and former US astronaut Charlie Duke, also recalled how in 1972 when on the way to the moon they were flying south across to the equator.

“When we turned our spacecraft around to retrieve the lunar module, I looked outside the window on the right and I saw the Earth floating. We could see the Arctic Circle down across Canada and the US, Central America was the landmass…a lot of the Eastern Pacific Ocean with blue, the white of the clouds and the snow. Land was all brown. I could see the rocky mountains quite clearly. The Earth was around 30,000km away and you could see the entire circle, it was just suspended in the blackness of space. It was an emotional moment for me. You cannot capture the feeling when you see the whole of the Earth.”

Meanwhile, Al Mansouri, said the global as well as the UAE space ecosystem is rife for private players. Al Mansouri said, “shwe shwe…step by step we’ll get there. We are looking forward to being part of human space flights. We have private companies joining this race to build rockets, capsules and in future to build private space stations. We are looking to go further and beyond the moon.”


Echoing similar sentiments, Duke, said, “I think NASA will turn over the Earth orbit to the private companies. That’s because the budget will be a strain. I think commercial tourism is going to multiply. As they get more vehicles, the price will come down. There will be a change in the atmosphere and I think one day just about anybody will be able to go and see those beautiful views and then do a Moon base on the moon. It’s going to be a great place for doing science and permanently living on the moon,” he said.

Shedding light on future missions, UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi said, “Hazzaa and I just finished the NASA training which equips us with the ability to go onboard the International Space station (ISS) and work for longer duration missions. Soon we’ll have four active astronauts from the UAE ready to go to space. The current goal is to go to the ISS. It is a huge laboratory that floats around the earth and we can do science onboard the station. We also hear of ambitious programmes to go back to the moon and we would definitely like to be a part of that. Going to the moon and following the footsteps of great legends is the ultimate goal for me, personally.”

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