ABU DHABI: An Emirati astronaut who became the first Arab to reach the International Space Station received a hero’s welcome home yesterday. Hazzaa Al-Mansoori of the United Arab Emirates was greeted by Abu Dhabi’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan at the capital’s airport. Men, women and children lined a red carpet to welcome back Mansoori and his colleague Sultan Al-Neyadi – who underwent the same training and served as a backup astronaut.
Children rushed towards the first Emirati spaceman to present him with flowers and hugs, as a group of men performed the traditional Yola dance. Although Mansoori’s mission was short – eight days in total – it has been the source of great pride in the UAE, a newcomer to the world of space with ambitions to send an unmanned probe to orbit Mars by 2021. The 35-year-old former military pilot’s whirlwind mission has had wall-to-wall coverage in Arab media. He returned to Earth on Oct 3.
Mansoori arrived home on Saturday following a stopover at the Roscosmos training base in Star City outside Moscow. “This truly has been an international collaboration and I am humbled to have been part of this,” Mansoori tweeted shortly before his arrival. Mansoori flew to the ISS after the UAE signed a contract with Roscosmos to allow him to become a “spaceflight participant”, a term used for people from outside the main space agencies who take short trips to the station. While on board, Mansoori donned Emirati dress, treated crew members to local snacks and participated in scientific experiments including a time-perception study that saw him sport a blindfold. – AFP