UAE's first astronaut tells of 'next time' and dispels conspiracy theory

Hazza Al Mansouri reveals first words on returning to Earth, during press conference in Moscow

epa07906975 United Arab Emirates astronaut Hazzaa Ali Almansoori (L) and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin attend a news conference at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City outside Moscow, Russia,  09 October 2019. Russian Soyuz MS-12 space capsule with U.S. astronaut Nick Hague, Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and United Arab Emirates astronaut Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, returned from a mission to the International Space Station landed safely in the steppes of Kazakhstan at 03 October.  EPA/YURI KOCHETKOV

Hazza Al Mansouri's journey to space was only the beginning of space expeditions for the UAE, the country's first astronaut said on Wednesday.

At a press conference in Moscow, Russia, Maj Al Mansouri spoke of the significance of his eight-day mission to the International Space Station.

“Our message is really to create our own model in our country, in the Arab region, like we saw in Yuri Gagarin [the first man in space],” he said.

Referring to a "next time", Maj Al Mansouri said he hoped another Emirati would have also the opportunity to go to space.

"Now my mission is to transfer [my] knowledge and experience from my training in Star City and onboard the station to the next [astronaut] and I hope they will do better than me."

Maj Al Mansouri took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on-board a Russian Soyuz rocket on September 25. He returned on October 3 after conducting a series of scientific experiments at the ISS.

When asked on Tuesday what his first words were upon reaching Earth, he said "Ihamdullilah [thank God]".

Maj Al Mansouri, who learnt Russian ahead of his mission, flexed his language skills during the conference. Answering in English, Arabic and Russian, he said his next words were to Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and American astronaut Nick Hague, who returned to Earth with him, when he said "welcome back".

Maj Al Mansouri he learnt a lot in his time on the station and was helped by everyone on board.

"They asked me earlier, before my mission, what I would miss most from the station and I told them 'microgravity' but I remember that, when we undocked, I thought to myself 'goodbye my friends on-board the station'. So the thing I will miss the most is my friends on-board the station; the [people] from international countries working together for mankind."

He was also asked if he could dispel, in Arabic, the conspiracy theory that the Earth is flat, rather than spherical, prompting chuckles from the astronaut and everyone else in the room.

"It is a sphere, I have seen it with my eyes so I can tell you this myself."

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