UAE: Going to space is a teamwork exercise, says first Emirati astronaut

Hazza Al Mansoori delivers talk on future of astronaut programme and space exploration


Nandini Sircar

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KT photo by Shihab
KT photo by Shihab

Published: Wed 19 Oct 2022, 6:52 PM

Last updated: Wed 19 Oct 2022, 9:18 PM

Hazzaa Al Mansoori, the first Emirati astronaut, said everything about going to space is a teamwork exercise, as he expressed his heartfelt support for his colleague, Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi who is gearing up for a six-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS) becoming the first Arab to undertake such a long-haul mission.

He said this while delivering a talk on the on the future of the UAE astronaut programme and space exploration at the Museum of the Future’s Auditorium on Wednesday 19 October.

Expressing his happiness to support Al Neyadi in his upcoming mission to the ISS, he opined how Al Neyadi who was his back up astronaut for his nascent mission to space, will receive the same support from Al Mansoori going forward.

“My brother and colleague, Sultan Al Neyadi who was selected with me in the first batch, is going to be on that mission. So, after undergoing intensive training for three years at Nasa, we are ready now. Sultan will fly next year for a six-month mission onboard the International Space Station (ISS) and I am really looking forward to seeing him float and experience zero gravity in space.”

On a lighter tone while addressing the enthusiastic audience that included many children, Al Mansoori added, “I am a little jealous because of the vehicle that he’s going in (Al Mansoori says laughing). It’s going to be a Space X Dragon for the Crew 6 mission who will launching from Florida. It's a futuristic vehicle. They will take off in February 2023. So, we (UAE) are going to conduct a six-month mission now which means more experiments, more science, more outreach for you people here on Earth”, whom he jokingly addresses as “Earthlings.”

Shedding light on how the UAE, which is a relatively young spacefaring nation, has already achieved incredible feat in the last few years, he adds, “In the UAE we always look at the future. We are looking for opportunities to participate in human space flights, to do experiments, to go to different planets, to study space to make this country a hub for everything that’s futuristic.”

He also highlighted space as a sector seeks constant collaboration with continuous teamwork from different stake holders. “Space is where you have people come from different countries, colours and all of us have one objective which to represent the whole of humanity despite where you are coming from and whatever religion you follow. We have only one goal. Science and exploration and that’s what are important.”

Al Mansoori’s keynote, in collaboration with the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), was part of the Museum of the Future’s Future Talks series.

The series is part of the museum’s efforts to shed light on inspiring Arab and international figures and present pioneering ideas to experts in the academic, scientific, cultural, social, developmental, and other sectors. The talks aim to explore horizons and opportunities to imagine and design the future.

“I really encourage each one of you here whether you are in your 60s or 70s to participate in such programmes. One can be a researcher, one can conduct experiments or participate in other aspects of space exploration (not just be an astronaut). You can do anything. So, I encourage you if you have a dream, just follow it. Dare to dream and follow your dream,” Al Mansoori added.

Al Mansoori: “I was really eager to recreate this (an old photo of the founding father with NASA astronauts) picture”

Showing a slide with a split screen to the attendees, Al Mansoori also reflected on how a picture of the Founding Father the Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan speaking to Nasa scientists in 1974. It’s this picture that inspired him to dream big.

But a seed that was sown that early, was gradually nurtured and eventually saw fruitation when a similar photograph was taken of him along with President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan who in the pictures is seen rivetedly listening to the UAE’s first Emirati astronaut, Al Mansoori.

“But really what gives me the strength and the passion was this picture. I was envious of the people of the NASA astronauts in this picture they are sitting with the Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan telling him about space. I was really eager to recreate this picture with him (Sheikh Mohamed).

Hazza Al Mansoori with Susan Kilrain at The Museum of the Future. KT photo by Shihab
Hazza Al Mansoori with Susan Kilrain at The Museum of the Future. KT photo by Shihab

Speaking also at the event was Susan Kilrain, who is a former Nasa astronaut, an aerospace engineer and a former US Navy Officer.

She says, “our Earth’s atmosphere is thin and fragile and that’s why we collectively, all of humanity, need to protect it. The UAE is in space (already). You are going to fly more astronauts through different space programmes but we're also doing more together. The NASA and the UAE are in collaboration to send a rover out into space. They're working together to make the space programme very robust and it's a great friendship that we have.”


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