An artist who designed UAE’s first space mascot hopes the stuffed toy will make more trips to the stars as the nation’s astronaut corps continues to grow.
Saeed Al Emadi is the brains behind Suhail, a cartoon character that flew into space with the first Emirati astronaut, Hazza Al Mansouri, in September 2019.
The stuffed toy was created to help generate interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) among children.
“When the UAE Astronaut Programme was launched, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to inspire the youth and children,” said Mr Al Emadi, who works at Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre.
“I came up with the idea to design the mascot that would represent our centre, as well as be a part of the mission to the International Space Station. At the same time, I wanted to create a character that could interact with the larger audience and teach the youth about space and related science.
Mr Al Emadi is part of the space centre’s communications team, but his passion for drawing led him to develop the ‘Suhail’ character.
Social media users chose its name with the help of an online poll.
Maj Al Mansouri took several photos of Suhail while on board the space station and used it as a tool to interact with children.
Miniature versions of the stuffed toy were distributed during the live screening event of the launch at the MBRSC headquarters. To children, it eventually became a symbol of the country’s bold space mission.
“I never thought that I would end up drawing the mascot for MBRSC, let alone see my creation in the International Space Station with the first UAE astronaut,” Mr Al Emadi said.
“It was a big deal, as the mascot was the first cartoon character from the UAE and the region to go to space. I hope that it inspired children and made them want to learn more about space.
“In the long run, I want to develop the character of ‘Suhail’ further, so that the audience can engage with it even more.”
While the UAE’s first space mission is over, more are coming up within this decade.
Two new Emiratis will be joining the nation’s astronaut corps this month.
It is unclear whether Suhail will join the next astronaut’s endeavour into space, but as it is the country’s first official space mascot, there is a possibility.
Mr Al Emadi was also part of the Zayed’s Ambition brand and the mission patch that was created in collaboration with the Federal Youth Authority.