Emirates Space Agency astronaut mascot waves during a live broadcast of a Russian Soyuz MS-15 space mission in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. AFP
Emiratis and school children gathered at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre as Hazzaa Al Mansoori, 35, blasted into space accompanied by Russia's Oleg Skripochka and Nasa astronaut Jessica Meir onboard a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan.
A former pilot in the UAE armed forces, he will be the first Emirati astronaut and the first Arab on the orbiting laboratory, but not the first Muslim.
Some people gathered at the Dubai centre carried UAE flags, while others were dressed in blue jumpsuits spelling out: "Future astronaut."
Badriya Al Hamadi, 38, said she was so proud of the historical moment, adding: "I feel like I am the one going to space."
According to Amer Al-Ghafri, of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, Mansoori's launch is only just the beginning of the UAE's dreams of space exploration.
A man takes selfie with an Emirates Space Agency astronaut mascot during a live broadcast in Abu Dhabi. AP
"There are a lot of ambitions and a lot more work," he said.
Mansoori received support from around the world before lifting off on what he described as his "dream" mission.
He will spend eight days on the ISS, where he plans to conduct experiments.
'Next stop Mars'
Writing on Twitter before the launch, Mansoori said he was "filled with this indescribable feeling of glory and awe."
"Today I carry the dreams and ambition of my country to a whole new dimension. May Allah grant me success in this mission," he said.
Local residents wave Emirati national flags as they watch screens showing a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft lifting off from Baikonur Cosmodrome, in Dubai. AFP
A book of the Holy Quran, a UAE flag, pictures of his family, and a book by Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum were among the few things he was allowed to pack for his space adventure.
Dubai's iconic Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest skyscraper, lit up the moment of blast-off at 5:57pm local time.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, vowed in 2017 to send four Emirati astronauts to the space station within five years.
"The arrival of Hazzaa Al Mansoori to space is a message to the Arab youth... that we can progress and move forward," Sheikh Mohammed said on Twitter on Wednesday. "Our next stop is Mars."
Talent in the UAE
The astronaut programme would make the UAE one of only a handful of states in the Middle East to have sent a person into space, as it looks to make good on a pledge to become a global leader in space exploration.
Emiratis believe they have shown the world what they can do.
"We have talent here in the UAE, and now the world will see that," said Fatima Al-Ghurair at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre.
The Soyuz FG, carrying the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft, in which Hazzaa AlMansoori, the first Emirati astronaut, will launch to the International Space Station, is emblazoned with the logo of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre and the UAE flag along with the flags of Russia and America in preparation for the historic mission.
Hazzaa was honoured as part of the university's efforts to support the country’s space sector.
In less than 90 hours, Emirati astronaut Hazzaa Al Mansoori takes off for the International Space Station, much to the cheer of a new spacefaring nation, UAE.
The prime crew continued their preflight preparations at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The main crew include Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka (commander), NASA astronaut Jessica Meir (flight engineer) and space flight participant Hazzaa Al Mansouri (UAE).
Millions of Indians turned out to cast ballots in a state election on Wednesday in the world’s biggest vote since the coronavirus emerged, with booths packed out and many ignoring government advice on wearing masks and social distancing.
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Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan expressed appreciation to this initiative of hosting a simple ceremony, given the current circumstances of COVID-19 pandemic.