Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

Emirati astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori, right, and backup pilot Sultan Al-Neyadi during training for the space mission.
Updated 20 July 2019
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Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

  • Hazza Al-Mansoori 'living a dream' as he and backup astronaut train for space mission in September
  • Soyuz-MS 15 launch could be the beginning of a bold new era of Arab exploration of space

DUBAI: More than 30 years after an Arab first journeyed into space, an  Emirati is preparing to become the latest Arab space traveler when he joins a team of astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) in September.

For months, Hazza Al-Mansoori and backup pilot Sultan Al-Neyadi have been undergoing intensive training in Russia, Germany and the US to prepare for the mission. The first Emirati to travel into space will make the historic journey on board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft due to take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.

During the eight-day mission, he will conduct a tour of the ISS for Arabic viewers on Earth and carry out 15 experiments for the Science in Space schools competition conducted by Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center.

The crew, who will include an American and a Russian, are allowed to take up to 1 kg of personal items with them on the mission.

“I will take my family photo and share the experience of being in space with them,” Al-Mansoori said. There will also be an image of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founding father, meeting American astronauts in 1976.

“I am also going to take an Emirati flag. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.”

‘I will take an Emirati flag into space. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.’

Emirati astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori

Al-Mansoori will join an elite space club comprising Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman and Syria’s Muhammed Faris. Prince Sultan became the first Arab to travel to space as part of space shuttle Discovery’s crew in 1985. Faris was a crew member of USSR’s Soyuz spacecraft in 1987.

The Emirati astronaut is aware that history is resting on his shoulders. Speaking to the media recently during his training program in Houston, Al-Mansoori  said it is a huge personal honor to be the first Emirati chosen for space exploration.

“I’m excited about the whole mission, but especially to experience the microgravity and be living in the ISS, and conducting daily experiments and working with the amazing group on board,” he said.

Al-Mansoori and Al-Neyadi have been undergoing rigorous training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The program includes familiarization with NASA equipment on board the space station, and handling emergency situations, such as ammonia gas leaks and depressurization.

The Emiratis have been trained to fend for themselves if the return goes off course and they land in the wilderness of Russia.

Speaking of the Soyuz-MS 15 mission, Yousuf Al-Shaibani, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, said: “We strive to see the UAE Astronaut Program achieve its objective of preparing generations of Emiratis who will contribute to enhancing the country’s position in space science and research to serve the ambitious aspirations aimed at building a national knowledge-based economy.”

The September launch could prove to be the beginning of a bold new era for Arabs and space. Al-Neyadi, the backup pilot, has been promised a seat on a future mission, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia are drawing up ambitious plans for the development of the region’s space industry.


Tunisia media mogul still candidate despite arrest: commission

Updated 10 min 10 sec ago
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Tunisia media mogul still candidate despite arrest: commission

  • Karoui is one of 26 presidential candidates given preliminary approval this month to run in the September 15 election

TUNIS: Media magnate Nabil Karoui remains in the race for Tunisia’s upcoming presidential election despite his arrest for alleged money laundering, the head of the country’s electoral commission said on Saturday.
Karoui, one of 26 presidential candidates given preliminary approval this month to run in the September 15 election, was arrested on Friday, his party said.
A judicial official said an arrest warrant had been issued for Karoui and his brother Ghazi for money laundering.
“Nabil Karoui is still a candidate and his name remains on the preliminary and definite list of candidates” who are vying to become Tunisia’s next president, electoral commission (ISIE) head Nabil Baffoun said.
“Following his arrest... as long as there are no changes in his legal status... he remains a presidential candidate,” Baffoun told the private Mosaique FM radio station.
According to Baffoun, candidatures of individuals who have been convicted in Tunisia are accepted as long as the verdict against them does not specifically say they are banned from running in an election.
The tycoon was charged with money laundering in early July shortly after stating his intention to stand in the polls, but has remained a leading candidate.
His party announced his arrest the same day that authorities declared a ban on three local outlets — including Karoui’s Nessma TV — from reporting on the election campaign over unlicensed “illegal” broadcasts.
Karoui has been accused by regulators and some politicians of using Nessma to bolster his political ambitions.
He was nearly removed from the race in June when parliament passed an amended electoral code that would bar any candidate who handed out “favors in cash or in kind” in the year before the vote.
But then-president Beji Caid Essebsi neither rejected nor enacted the bill, leaving the door open for Karoui to run.