1. The first Emirati astronaut is headed to space today…

In a historic moment later today, Wednesday September 25, Hazzaa Al Mansoori will become the first Emirati astronaut to go to space. Blasting off just before 6pm from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the mission will see Al Mansoori journey to the International Space Station (ISS) for eight days, returning to earth on October 3.

Here are 5 things you need to know about the UAE’s first mission to space.

1. It’s happening today

At 5.56pm UAE time, Hazzaa Al Mansoori will blast off into space, beginning his journey to the International Space Station for an eight-day mission. Al Mansouri will be one of three astronauts, joined by Russian commander Oleg Skripochka and Nasa’s Jessica Meir. The astronauts will board the Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft around two hours ahead of take-off, which will happen from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5.56pm, UAE time. Hazzaa Al Mansoori and his fellow astronauts are then set to return to earth on October 3.

2. The Dubai Royals have been giving their full support

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai first announced that the UAE’s first astronaut would be going to space in June 2018. At the time of announcement, the Dubai Ruler Tweeted that “our vision, which started 12 years ago, is starting to bear fruit”. In March 2019, Sheikh Mohammed met with the two astronauts in training to discuss their future journey and careers, taking to Twitter afterwards to say that the astronauts “carry the dreams of our founding fathers, the ambitions of our people, and inspire our youth to raise their aspirations to the sky.”

In September 2019, H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai has shared a series of Tweets expressing well wishes to the first Emirati astronaut.

The Crown Prince mentioned a phone call he had with the astronaut, sharing his gratitude for the new challenge Al Mansouri is set to face.

3. Al Mansoori will be taking several important things with him

Al Mansoori will take with him a 10kg shipment prepared by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). The shipment is filled with items relating to the UAE’s heritage, culture and history such as flags and logos, Emirati food and 30 Ghaf tree seeds, which will be planted all over the UAE upon the astronaut’s return. A photo of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a copy of the Holy Quran, MBRSC’s The Race to Space and the book ‘My Story’ by Sheikh Mohammed will also be included in the package.

For more practical purposes, Al Mansoori will also be taking materials required for the scientific experiments he, along with his fellow astronauts, will be carrying out during the mission.

4. There’s a back-up astronaut

Two Emirati astronauts were initially selected for rigorous training in Russia; Hazza Al Mansoori and Sultan Al Neyadi. In preparation for the mission, the two astronauts endured over 1,400 training hours and undertook over 90 courses. However, it was announced in April 2019 that Hazzaa Al Mansoori had been chosen as the astronaut to face the mission, with Sultan Al Neyadi the back-up astronaut. If Al Mansoori should fall ill, or become unable to go, then Sultan Al Neyadi will take his place.

5. He’ll be conducting a host of experiments aboard the ISS

During his eight-day mission aboard the ISS, the Emirati astronaut will be tasked with conducting an array of scientific experiments, including experiments produced by 16 schools across the UAE.

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Images: Dubai Media Office/ MBRSC