Hazza Al Mansouri said he was “proud” but “a bit jealous” of fellow Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, who is gearing up for a six-month mission to the International Space Station next spring.
The Emirati astronaut, who spent eight days on board the space station in 2019, made his remarks during an event at the Museum of the Future on Wednesday.
During his mission three years ago, he left Earth's atmosphere on a Soyuz capsule, a spacecraft with an outdated, cramped style but which is still a reliable transport method.
He jokingly said that he was slightly envious of Dr Al Neyadi, his backup astronaut in the UAE’s first space mission, and his coming ride on Elon Musk’s SpaceX Crew Capsule.
“After doing training for two years at Nasa, we are ready,” Maj Al Mansouri said.
“We can fly for long-duration missions on board the International Space Station and I'm really looking forward to see him [Dr Al Neyadi] floating and experiencing microgravity.
“I would say I'm jealous because of the vehicle that he’s going to fly with — a SpaceX Crew Dragon currently launching from Florida. It’s a futuristic vehicle, indeed.”
Dr Al Neyadi has been assigned the Arab world’s first long-duration space mission, in which he will spend six months on the space station.
He, along with three Nasa and Russian colleagues, will head towards the station on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre.
The SpaceX capsule is more spacious than the Soyuz, with enough space for seven crew members, compared with three seats on the Russian spacecraft. It also has a sleeker design and features touchscreens.
The Dragon successfully completed its first crewed flight to the station in 2019 after being launched on top of a Falcon 9 rocket.
This helped to return human space flight launches to US soil once again, after relying on the Russians for more than a decade.
Since then, SpaceX has launched five crewed flights for Nasa, with the sixth one planned for next spring.
While Dr Al Neyadi will have a fancier ride to space, Maj Al Mansouri was the first Arab astronaut to board the ISS.
He said he would go to space again even if it was in a spacecraft smaller than the Soyuz.
Maj Al Mansouri and Dr Al Neyadi were the first two Emiratis to be selected for a mission through the UAE’s astronaut corps.
The two refer to each other as “brothers”, having spent more than three years training together in many different parts of the world.
Maj Al Mansouri said that it was an exciting time for space exploration and encouraged young people to pursue their dreams even if they seemed farfetched.