Blue Origin passenger dreams of launching into space from UAE

Hamish Harding, a long-time Emirates resident, is heading to the edge of space on Saturday

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A British adventurer, who is set to fly to the edge of space on a Blue Origin flight on Saturday, has told of his hopes of launching from a UAE spaceport one day.

Hamish Harding, 50, has called the Emirates his home for more than a decade, and said he wants to see it create a thriving space tourism industry.

He is one of six passengers that will climb aboard a New Shepard rocket from rural West Texas at 5pm, UAE time.

“I actually think the UAE is such an amazing place for first, biggest and best of everything," said Mr Harding, who is the chairman of Action Aviation, which provides aircraft brokerage services to many business jet and helicopter owners.

Why don't we have a second launch site for Blue Origin? I would love to push that.

“I think UAE should be an alternative launch site. There's no reason why we couldn't launch the New Shepard rocket from the deserts here.”

The National revealed in October that the space tourism company was already in discussions with the UAE authorities on setting up a spaceport.

The Ministry of Economy and Blue Origin agreed during a meeting last year to explore ways of developing a space tourism industry in the UAE, which would include spaceports.

Blue Origin hired AzurX, an advisory and investment company in Dubai, as its regional adviser to increase its presence in the Middle East.

Apart from launching on suborbital flights, Mr Harding also hopes to travel to Blue Origin’s planned space station, called Orbital Reef, from a UAE spaceport one day.

The company plans to put the commercial space station in low-Earth orbit in the second half of this decade. It would act as a “mixed-use business park”.

The business model involves easy access for customers who could use the space station for different requirements, including researchers, manufacturers and tourists.

“I believe they will have a proper space station under Blue Origin and I'd very much like to go to that,” Mr Harding said.

“That will be one of the next things I want to do. I’d definitely like to launch out of my long-term home country, which is the UAE.”

The NS-21 flight that Mr Harding is part of was initially delayed from May 20 so engineers could make repairs on the spacecraft.

He returned to Van Horn in West Texas on Wednesday to prepare for the flight. His wife and two kids will be present to witness the launch.

The experience involves launching the passengers 106 kilometres above the ground, granting them a few minutes of weightlessness.

Mr Harding, known for his adrenalin-fuelled stunts, including a dive into the Mariana Trench in the Pacific last year, said he has always wanted to see Earth from above.

He is also taking a few mementos on the flight to bring back as presents for family and friends.

For his wife, he is taking a ring that he will give her once back on Earth.

“She’s coming to watch, along with my kids and cousins,” he said.

“I’m taking a few personal things like a ring. People like wearing things that have been to space.”

The passengers are restricted to only 1.5 kilograms of personal items all packed into one bag.

“You can't carry anything loose like a mobile phone because things could fly around the capsule on re-entry,” said Mr Harding.

He will also take the polystyrene cups he took to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest point in the world's oceans, last year.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Patrick Ryan. News. Hamish Harding returns to Dubai after diving the Mariana Trench in the Pacific. Hamish shows what the pressure does to polystyrene cups. Wednesday, March 10th, 2021. Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

These cups shrank to about a quarter of their size because of the pressure at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

Mr Harding said: “I'm going to take some of those compressed cups that are dedicated to various people, including to my son’s school — which is Dubai College — and present that to them.

“Those cups have been to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and now to space, hopefully.”

Mr Harding’s flight to the edge of space will be streamed live on Blue Origin’s website.

It is expected that he could be one of many space tourists from the UAE.

AzurX is planning a series of exclusive events around spaceflight sales in the Emirates.

Anna Hazlett, chief executive of the company, said Dubai has the potential to become a global centre for space tourism.

"We're excited to develop the roadmap for private human spaceflight in the UAE and we look forward to working with our strategic partners to offer private space flights and experiences to UAE citizens, residents and visitors," she told The National.

Updated: June 03, 2022, 6:52 AM