UAE's first astronaut completes final test before historic space mission

Hazza Al Mansouri completes a two-day mock mission in Russia to prepare him for his journey to space next month

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The UAE's first astronaut has completed a gruelling 6-hour final exam in preparation for his milestone journey to space.

Hazza Al Mansouri, 35, underwent a mandatory two-day mock mission at Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City, Moscow, three weeks before he is due to blast off to the International Space Station.

The series of assessments were completed by the main and back up crews, including Emirati Sultan Al Neyadi, 38, on Saturday.

They underwent qualification examinations and simulations for the Russian Soyuz and Russian segment of the ISS. They were tested on emergency situations related to take off and landing as well as emergencies abroad ISS.

Each day of the exam began with the astronauts saluting the commanders at GCTC and then choosing their tests scenario. The astronauts had to pick one of the scenarios, which were in sealed envelopes, ahead of the exam.

The exams were a culmination of the training Maj Al Mansouri, a former military pilot, and Mr Al Neyadi underwent at the centre from September 3, 2018.

Speaking to Russian and foreign press assembled at the training centre, Maj Al Mansouri spoke of his pride at making history.

“I am proud to be the first Arab astronaut on the ISS,” he said.

“I will have many experiments. For example, I will plant a date seed and watch it grow in orbit. ”

He spoke of the warm welcome he had received in Russia and felt ready to embrace his significant moment in UAE history.

Mr Al Neyadi said his compatriot is the UAE's own Yuri Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut who became the first person to journey into outer space in 1961.

He said the pair had gone through extensive training in Russia to ready themselves for the challenges to come — and hopes it is just the start of his own adventure.

“We had a lot of training, both on simulators, and the experience of surviving in a wooded and swampy area in winter. I like to be here. I hope that in the future I will be able to continue training at the CPC,” said Mr Al Neyadi.

Maj Al Mansouri will be joined by Nasa astronaut Jessica Meir and Russian commander Oleg Skripochka for the trip on-board a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft that will be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in just a matter of weeks.

Maj Al Mansouri, 35, will be placed in quarantine with the rest of the main and backup crews for two weeks to ensure they are free of germs or infections before jetting off into the atmosphere.

During their quarantine, Maj Al Mansouri and Mr Al Neyadi will be in the care of the Russian Federal Medical-Biological Agency, which will be responsible for preventing germs from entering their ground and space facilities.

The facilities and tools they use will be frequently sterilised, as will their accommodation, buses and training sites. Immediately before the flight, health experts will clean the Soyuz MS-15, the space flight that will carry the team to the ISS on September 25.

The role of Maj Al Mansouri on the Soyuz spacecraft will be that of second flight engineer to Ms Meir and Mr Skripochka.

Once the launch has taken place, Mr Al Neyadi’s part in the mission will have concluded unless he is called upon to take the place of his fellow countryman.

Maj Al Mansouri will return to Earth on October 3, at 4.48pm.