UAE - First Emirati astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori is returning home today after creating history for the Arab world with his successful mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
The national hero is set to land in the Capital, where he was born and still lives. He will arrive with Sultan Al Neyadi, who was his backup for this mission, and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre chairman and director-general.
AlMansoori, a 35-year-old former military fighter jet pilot, had launched to the ISS on September 25 and landed back on earth on October 3. Since he and Al Neyadi started their astronaut training in 2018, they've made only a few home visits.
Michael Flachbart, space camp leader at UAE's Compass International who worked for the US Space and Rocket Centre for over 30 years, said the entire nation - especially the youth - has been inspired by the UAE's first space mission.
"The achievement is obviously very historic to have the first astronaut go up," he said.
"The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre has taken the long-term approach. There are some countries that have done a one-off, where they've sent someone to space and they haven't gone through the full training of becoming a long-term astronaut.
The UAE's approach of working with the Russian space agency, Nasa and other agencies is to really develop a long-term programme."
A total 239 astronauts and cosmonauts from 19 countries have now visited the ISS, though, majority of these countries have sent an astronaut only once. Russia, the US, Japan, France, Italy, Germany and Canada are currently the only ones that have sent more than one.
"When you see someone from your nationality go to space, it's empowering. When people first went to space in the early 1960s, it was white men from the Russia and the US, and it was hard for women, minorities and people from other cultures or countries to really see themselves in that seat," Flachbart said.
"It was very inspirational to the world. For the youth, to see that there's an active space programme is an inspiration. Not all of them will become astronauts, but it'll inspire them to go into careers of building and designing satellites, looking at remote sensing and astronaut training. It really takes a whole workforce to support the space programme, it's not just the astronaut."
AlMansoori was in Star City, Russia, for 11 days after landing back on earth. He was undergoing health checks, as well as medical tests that were part of his mission's scientific research on Arab genes.
He and a team of scientists will continue working on the remaining experiments and carrying out further studies from this mission.
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