The first Emirati astronaut to go into space won't only be enjoying a halal menu made up of traditional UAE dishes, but he'll also be serving it to his fellow crew mates over dinner.
Hazza Al Mansouri is currently getting ready for his eight-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS), which is set to launch on Sep. 25. While on that mission, he's going to dress up in traditional Emirati attire and serve his colleagues canned and liquified versions of the UAE's most popular local dishes.
"I'm honored to be the first astronaut to host an Emirati night on board the ISS to promote the Emirati culture, which I am proud to belong to, and share some delicious Emirati food like salona, madrouba and balaleet, which I’m sure they will like," Al Mansouri told The National.
News of the traditional Emirati food night that's set to take place in space comes just a month after it was announced that Al Mansouri will be consuming canned Emirati food while on his mission.
The dishes are currently being planned out and prepared by a Russian company specialized in the production of astronaut food. The Space Food Laboratory company is working on cooking batches of canned halal food for Al Mansouri to have while he's far from Earth.
Both Al-Mansouri and his backup astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi recently tried some of these dishes as part of their training, which is taking place at Star City in Russia.
According to The National, the two men "spent up to two hours per day for a week tasting 200 different types of halal food." These foods include local delicacies like balaleet (sweetened vermicelli and eggs), saloona (Emirati lamb stew), and mathrooba (salt-cured fish stew). According to Gulf News, they will be ready for take off by mid-August.
The UAE's first astronauts loved the food they've tried so far
In his interview with The National, Al Mansouri said the food he's tried so far "compared to the food we eat on earth," even though it comes in cans and tubes.
"The astronaut's meals are prepared according to specific requirements to provide a balanced nutrition, while ensuring that they are easy to carry, store, and use in a non-gravitational environment," he explained.
He added that he and his colleague have evaluated up to 200 different samples of halal food and rated them on a scale of one to nine.
In his statement on the matter, Al Neyadi told The National the two astronauts' ISS menu includes soups and cheese for starters. The main course features fish, chicken, or beef, in addition to desserts and drinks such as tea and juices.
Al Mansouri, along with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and American astronaut Jessica Meir, will be launched to space aboard a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft and will complete an eight-day stay on the ISS.
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 viewers back on Earth and document the daily lives of astronauts at the station. He is also set to carry out 15 scientific experiments before returning to Earth on October 3.
Once he completes his mission, Al Mansouri will make history as the first-ever Emirati and Arab to fly to the ISS.
Ready for takeoff! The UAE chose its first astronauts last year
In 2018, Al Mansouri and Sultan al Neyadi were revealed as the first Emiratis to be selected to fly to the ISS.
At the time, Dubai's Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the two 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.