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UAE’s first astronaut returns safely home

Hazza Al Mansoori, the first Emirati astronaut, along with astronauts Nick Hague and Aleksey Ovchinin, returned to Earth safely, after completing his eight-day scientific mission aboard the International Space Station, ISS. The hatch closing of the Soyuz MS-12 took place at 08:20 UAE time.

The spacecraft undocked from the ISS, on 3rd October 2019, at 11:37 UAE time, and landed in the southeast of Dzhezkazgan in Karaganda Region, Kazakhstan at 14:59.

Al Mansoori was received by Salem Al Marri, head of the UAE Astronaut Programme, as well as Saeed Karmostaji, the Astronauts office manager at MBRSC, and a specialised international medical team. The astronauts were then taken to a health camp.

Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, Chairman of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, MBRSC, Yousuf Hamad Al Shaibani, Director-General of MBRSC and team members from MBRSC, followed the landing procedure of Hazza and his crew mates from the Roscosmos Mission Control Centre, MCC, in Moscow.

Cosmonaut Ovchinin and astronaut Al Mansoori were then transferred to Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, GCTC, in Star City, Moscow, where Dr. Hanan Al Suwaidi, the flight surgeon for the mission, did a medical check on Hazza.

New success story

Hamad Al Mansoori said, “Today, we are proud to welcome the UAE’s ambassador to space, Hazza Al Mansoori, back to Earth. He carries with him knowledge, experience, and the results of scientific experiments conducted aboard the ISS. These experiments will enrich human knowledge, as well as the global scientific community, and pave the way for Arab youth to have new dreams and ambitions in this leading sector.”

“Today, we kick-start a new era in the UAE’s space sector, with the completion of a new success story for the country. Al Mansoori set off with ‘Zayed’s Ambition’, and raised the UAE’s flag high in space. He became a role model for Arab youth, and paved the way for generations to come,” added Al Mansoori.

For his part, Yousuf Al Shaibani, said, “We are witnessing a historic moment in the UAE, with the return of the first Emirati astronaut, safely back to earth. The success of this mission confirms our ability to turn our dreams into reality. It also proves that we are able to revive Arab civilisation, and we believe that there are no limits to the ambitions and aspirations of Emiratis.”

“I would like to extend our sincere appreciation and gratitude to our wise leadership, which provided all the necessary resources to establish a strong national space sector. I’d also like to thank and commend the efforts of all who took part in making this mission a successful one, notably Hazza Al Mansoori and Sultan Al Neyadi, our two Emirati astronauts, as well as our strategic partners, the global space agencies, and the team of Emirati youth from MBRSC. We pledge to our wise leadership to continue to make more achievements in the space sector,” Al Shaibani continued.

Salem Al Marri added, “The objectives of the UAE Astronaut Programme are well achieved with the success of the first UAE manned mission to space. Hazza’s mission will be a cornerstone for successful case studies, to ensure knowledge transfer and capacity building processes are in place for the next generation of astronauts.”

He explained, “This mission wouldn’t have been successful without the efforts of a big team at MBRSC; a team that handled all aspects of this mission in a zero-error environment; the scientific team who planned the experiments for the mission, as well as the ground stations team in Dubai, Moscow and Houston who made communicating with Hazza possible; and the administration team who managed all details of the mission; those and our local partners in UAE are all a fundamental part of the success of the mission.”

Landing

Al Mansoori returned to earth aboard the Soyuz MS-12, along with Nick Hague and Aleksey Ovchinin, who were at the ISS since March 2019.

MBRSC explained that the undocking took place on 3rd October, around 3.5 hours before the touchdown on Earth.

The spacecraft began the deorbit burn to ensure that its speed reached 128 metres per second. After two and a half hours in solo flight, when the Soyuz was around half an orbit from its landing site, the spacecraft oriented itself, tail first, in preparation for a braking manoeuvre, over the Southern Pacific and the Atlantic, near the southern tip of South America.

MBRSC said that, 30 minutes before landing, the three modules of the Soyuz MS-12 separated at an altitude of 140 kilometres: the descent module with the crew headed for landing, while the two other compartments burned up in the atmosphere. At that point, the cover of the parachute container was jettisoned, the main parachute opened at an altitude of 10.7 kilometres, and the braking parachute was jettisoned. When the main parachute was fully deployed, the reentry capsule entered a stable descent with a speed of around 7.2 metres per second.

At an altitude of between 1.1 and 0.8 metres from Earth, the Kaktus altimeter issued a command for the firing of the braking solid motors, DMP, and a giant parachute of 10,767 m2 area launched to slow down the speed of the spacecraft to 7m/sec. The spectacular firing took place around 0.7 metres above the surface, reducing the descent speed of the capsule to between 1.5 metres per second, leading to a smooth and quiet touchdown, north east of Baikonur Cosmodrome.

A historic mission

During his stay aboard the ISS, Al Mansoori received a call from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, while His Highness was visiting the MBRSC. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid congratulated Al Mansoori for his achievement, and conveyed the sincere wishes of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Al Mansoori thanked Their Highnesses for their support and motivation, and stressed that the UAE’s leadership represent great examples of leaders who support their people, strive for great achievements, and provide youth in their country with opportunities in all fields.

Al Mansoori expressed his pride in being the first Emirati and first Arab to communicate from the ISS to earth in Arabic, as well as the first to carry the UAE’s flag into space. The UAE astronaut also said that he hopes the experiments he participated in would contribute to serving human beings.

Scientific missions

Al Mansoori conducted 16 scientific experiments in cooperation with international space agencies, including the European Space Agency, ESA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, and NASA. Six of these experiments were conducted in microgravity to study the reaction of vital indicators of the human body aboard the ISS, Brain DTI, Osteology, motor control, time perception in microgravity, Fluidics (fluid dynamics in space), and DNAm-Age. Al Mansoori was the first astronaut from the Arab region to participate in such research.

The scientific mission included experiments involving schools in the UAE as part of MBRSC’s Science in Space initiative. The first phase of the initiative saw the participation of nearly 15 schools from the UAE, in the presence of Al Mansoori. In the second phase, the experiments were conducted in microgravity aboard the ISS during Hazzaa’s mission.

Live sessions

Live sessions were organised through video calls, in partnership with global space agencies, or radio HAM, in partnership with the Emirates Amateur Radio Society. The sessions were attended by school students from all over the UAE. Students were given the opportunity to ask Al Mansoori about life aboard the ISS.

Arabic tour

In an unprecedented achievement, Al Mansoori recorded the first-ever Arabic video tour, where he explained the components of the station and the equipment on board, in addition to a short brief about the daily life of astronauts on board the station.

Al Mansoori also recorded 15-minute-films to document life aboard the ISS and his activities there.

Introducing Emirati culture

Furthermore, Al Mansoori hosted fellow astronauts on the station and introduced them to Emirati traditions and values. He also offered them three dishes: madrooba, saloona, and balaleet, which were prepared by the Space Food Laboratory Company. The Company specialises in the production of astronaut food, according to specific requirements to provide balanced nutrition, and ensure they are easily carried, stored, and used in zero gravity.

Reading children’s stories

Al Mansoori also read two children’s stories, called ‘Amal’ and ‘Khalifa’.

Taking photos of planet earth

Al Mansoori sent photos and videos of planet earth and the UAE, to the ground team at MBRSC. The images showed different parts of the Arab world including North Africa, Egypt and KSA, specifically Mecca city.

‘Send to Space’ Drawings from Space

Al Mansoori showed ten selected drawings from the Send to Space initiative that was launched earlier by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre.

The ground station in Dubai While on board the station, Al Mansoori communicated twice a day with the ground station at MBRSC, to inform them of his daily schedule and tasks on board.

He also communicated daily with Dr. Hanan Al Suwaidi, the flight surgeon for the mission, who followed his medical status throughout his time in space, and will be present upon his return to conduct a few check-ups on him.

UAE Astronaut Programme

The mission is part of the UAE Astronaut Programme, which is overseen by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. The UAE Astronaut Programme is the first integrated programme in the Arab region to prepare national cadres to participate in human space flights and carry out various scientific missions, in addition to becoming a part of the research carried out by the global scientific community to devise solutions to many challenges facing humanity.

The UAE Astronaut Programme is funded by the ICT fund of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, TRA. Launched in 2007, this fund, which is the first of its kind in the Arab world, aims towards supporting research and development within the ICT sector in the UAE, helping it to grow into a nationally significant industry with a leading place in the world.

Source: WAM

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