The countdown to the UAE's launch into space has officially begun.
Hazza Al Mansouri is currently counting down the hours (at the time of writing) till he sets into space as part of an eight-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS). If you've been following his updates, you probably already know that he's going to dress up in traditional Emirati attire, feast on halal food, and serve his colleagues some canned and liquified versions of the UAE's most popular dishes during his stay in space.
Al Mansouri, along with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and American astronaut Jessica Meir, will head to space aboard a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft at 5:57 p.m. UAE time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The 34-year-old, who's a former F-16 Block 60 fighter pilot, has spent much of this year in Russia "undergoing space training and ground survival techniques."
While in space, the Emirati astronaut will present a tour of the station in Arabic for people on Earth and will also document the daily lives of astronauts at the station. He is set to carry out 15 scientific experiments before returning to Earth on Oct. 3. Al Mansouri is the first-ever Emirati and Arab to fly to the ISS.
Counting down the hours in #HASHTAGS
Several hashtags began trending on Twitter as of last night (Sept. 24) including #UAEinSpace, #FirstEmiratiAstronaut, and an Arabic hashtag in #HazzaAlMansouri's name. People are holding the astronaut up on a pedestal for finally turning Sheikh Zayed's dream into reality.
The UAE's founding father met NASA astronauts twice in the 1980s and hoped that the UAE would become a key player in space exploration. It seems as though the UAE, and Al Mansouri, have been doing a great job in keeping that dream alive.
"43 years ago, UAE founder met the Apollo 17 crew in Abu Dhabi"
In 2014, the UAE officially established a Space Agency and set an ambitious goal of launching a probe to Mars. Two years later, the Gulf state and NASA signed a deal to work together to reach the Red Planet. In 2016, the country set up the Emirates Mars Mission which plans to send an unmanned spacecraft to explore Mars in 2020. The journey is expected to take seven months. One year later, the UAE announced its plans to build the first-ever city on Mars ... in about 100 years. The Mars 2117 project is part of a 100-year national program that focuses on spearheading scientific breakthroughs like the renowned Mars Mission.
Just last year, two Emirati astronauts were selected to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) — the first Arabs to get the opportunity to do so. At the time, Dubai's Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced that Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi will become the country's first-ever nationals to go to space as part of the UAE Astronaut Program. The duo was chosen from a pool of 4,022 contenders who applied for Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center's UAE Astronaut Program, which aimed to find the nation's first astronauts.
Now, the time for Al Mansouri to shine has officially come. And people couldn't have been prouder.