Beyond the Headlines: Hazza Al Mansouri and the UAE’s space ambitions

Why does space exploration still capture the human imagination so vividly?

On September 27, 2019, Hazza Al Mansouri became the first Emirati to go to space.

He did it from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, the same spot where Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, started his mission from more than 58 years ago.

Back then, in the early years of the space race, Cold War rivals The Soviet Union and the United States were in a technological battle to achieve spaceflight capability, in hopes to secure their scientific and symbolic superiority.

Gagarin went into space 10 years before the UAE was formed in 1971. Since then, 40 more nationalities have left the earth’s atmosphere, the 40th being the UAE.

Although few nations have their own technology to make the journey, the desire to take part in humanity’s expedition into the cold, hostile environment is vast, with many nations spending millions of dollars to take part in the privilege.

But what does space offer them in return? Why does it capture the human imagination and what does it mean for a nation?

Host Suhail Rather looks at the UAE's space programme and where it’s headed. With a human colony on Mars planned for 2117 and a probe headed for the red planet next year, we take a look at what Major Al Mansouri's mission means for the local population.