UAE astronaut becomes first Arab to enter orbiting space station

Jubilant crowds in UAE cheered as an Emirati created history by becoming the first Arab to enter the Earth-orbiting research lab, International Space Station (ISS), agencies report.

Maj Hazzaa al-Mansoori, above, (Photo credit: Nasa), a former pilot of the UAE armed forces, was part of a three-member crew aboard Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft that blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan late on Wednesday.

After docking with ISS eight hours later, Mansoori, along with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, and US astronaut Jessica Meir entered the research lab to a rousing welcome by six of their station crewmates.

“Salaam alaikum” (Peace be unto you), he greeted the world in Arabic.

Mansoori, 35, will conduct experiments and live broadcasts and hold an Emirati food night at ISS. After spending eight days there, he will return to Earth on October 3.

Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, ruler of the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, described Mansoori’s journey as a big leap for the UAE into a new era in space exploration.

Dr Ahmad Al Falasi, chairman of the UAE Space Agency and Minister of State for Higher Education, congratulated Hazza and sent him greetings of the people of UAE in a message from Baikonur Cosmodrome.

In Dubai, crowds cheered and Burj Khalifa, the tallest skyscraper, lit up as Soyuz carrying Mansoori lifted off into space.

The UAE is planning an unmanned mission named Hope to Mars by 2021.