‘Hazzaa’s mission a prelude to many UAE space expeditions’ - GulfToday

‘Hazzaa’s mission a prelude to many UAE space expeditions’

Henry Jacob


Senior Assistant Editor, Gulf Today

Senior Assistant Editor, Gulf Today


Al Mansoori returned to earth aboard the Soyuz MS-12, along with Nick Hague and Aleksey Ovchinin.

“The triumphal return of Hazzaa Al-Mansoori from the International Space Station was an event to behold. The United Arab Emirates is a country of merely 50 years. To have elected to send one of its citizens on one of the most sophisticated of all missions is something to ponder,” remarked reputed Egyptian-American space scientist and geologist Dr Farouk El-Baz.

“I happen to have met three times in the early 1970s with the father of the nation Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The first time in 1974 I was alone, the second a year later with an Apollo 15 astronaut who walked on the Moon, and in 1976 with the whole American crew of the Apollo-Soyuz mission of 1975. During such meetings he showed great interest in all aspects of such complex missions. More importantly, he would ask me to convey all the excitement and new knowledge to students first at high schools and later to college students. He would also insist on my going to both the boys’ and the girls’ schools.”

“From what I personally know from the present leadership of the UAE, particularly from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, this is only a prelude to many more missions into space.

“In the year of the 50th anniversary we expect the launch of a UAE designed and built AMAL spacecraft. The latter will head to the upper atmosphere of planet Mars, about which the international scientific community knows little. Thus, the UAE will join the space-exploring nations to add to our knowledge of the heavens.”

Interestingly, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has named a newly discovered asteroid after Dr El-Baz. The asteroid, called El Baz, honours the pioneering achievements of the famed space scientist.

Dr El-Baz was caught unawares by the honour. “Yes the naming of an asteroid was an incredible surprise and a very great honour indeed.

It was done by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which is the only organisation charged with the naming of plants and planetary features. The IAU informed Nasa formally as it is the agency that produces maps of approved names of planets and planetary features.”

Dr Farouk El-Baz was Director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University. He retired this year and left the directorship of the centre to one of his students.

He is Adjunct Professor of Geology at the Faculty of Science, Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt.

Earlier Dr El-Baz had remarked, “Hazzaa is himself a fine jet pilot. His mission will be a landmark one in the annals of the modern Arab world. I know that he will do a fine job representing the youth of the UAE and the rest of the Arab world.”

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