The UAE is conquering space in the Moon landing anniversary year

Half a century after the Apollo 11 mission, the torch has been passed to Hazza Al Mansouri

Emirati astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri with Roscosmos commander Oleg Skripochka and American Nasa astronaut, Jessica Meir. Courtesy Dubai Media Office
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Just 10 weeks remain until Hazza Al Mansouri blasts off from earth and plants the UAE flag on the International Space Station. It will be a historic milestone for the former army pilot, the nation, and the wider Arab world. As Mr Al Mansouri said this week: "My objective is to inspire the next generation and show them nothing is impossible." His task is immeasurably large – but following training in Russia, Germany and the US, he is on course to complete it.

This is only the beginning of the UAE's plans to conquer space. The country will land a probe on Mars in two years and plans to establish the first human colony on the Red Planet by 2117. Mr Al Mansouri's achievements are also those of the UAE – whose ambitions are no longer confined to Earth.

This week, we celebrate the anniversary of the Moon landing, when Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the lunar surface, on July 20, 1969. It still stands today as a remarkable technological feat and enduring proof of humankind’s potential. When then US president John F Kennedy announced his ambitious plan to put a man on the Moon in 1961, it was not merely about exploring the great unknown, or establishing US dominance in space. Rather, Kennedy’s words were a call to all citizens to come together and dream.

The UAE's own space programme, which will register its first major achievement with Al Mansouri's mission in September, offers a similar rallying call.

For the UAE’s first astronaut, who grew up gazing at the stars and dreaming of one day entering space, this is just the beginning. “I would love to go to the Moon eventually,” he said this week in Houston, the home of Nasa. History now rests on his shoulders.

In the week we reflect upon the pioneering Apollo 11 mission, the torch has been passed to Mr Al Mansouri. In a matter of weeks, the nation will hold its collective breath as he propels the UAE – and a cherished image of Founding Father Sheikh Zayed – into the stars.