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UAE’s First Astronaut Returns Home to a Hero’s Welcome

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Hazzaa Al Mansouri. Photo: WAM

After spending eight days in space and most of the year in Russia, Hazzaa Al Mansouri, UAE‘s first astronaut returned to his home country on Saturday.

Al Mansouri was accompanied by the backup astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi when the two landed at the Al Bateen Executive Airport at Abu Dhabi International Airport on a Presidential Flight. Upon their return, not only did they have a red carpet rolled out and were flanked by UAE flags, but were also greeted by HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces himself.

“Hazzaa has reflected the bright image of the UAE and its people to the entire world and reaffirmed our country’s leadership and determination to participate in advancing the human development,” Sheikh Mohamed said.

Addressing both the Emirati astronauts, Sheikh Mohamed noted: “You are a role model for young people who we are proud of and trust in real and serious challenges.

“You are today a model and good example for all UAE and Arab youth. The journey to the ISS will remain a source of inspiration and an incentive for the nation’s youth to genuinely work for the UAE’s progress.”

Adding: “From the beginning and once the UAE space program was developed, we insisted that Emiratis will be the ones who will implement this project. We have worked hard to prepare qualified and trained national cadres in this field, as our country’s ultimate goal is to participate actively in the space exploration and build a knowledge-based economy.”

Al Mansouri presented Sheikh Mohamed with the same UAE flag he took to the International Space Station, while UAE Airforce’s aerobatic display team, Al Fursan painted the sky with the colors of the flag by performing a flyover.

The quintessentially Emirati welcome also included an Emirati troupe performing the traditional ayala dance for the two astronauts who were draped with the UAE flags.

At the press conference held later, Al Mansouri shared on how returning home felt.

As I was coming down from the plane and I saw Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, I saw in him the image of Sheikh Zayed and a dream older than 40 years coming true. “I saw the happiness of Sheikh Zayed in all of you,” said the astronaut.

“I saw my country waiting for me. [I saw] pride that I represented the UAE and the Arab world in this mission. This is the start of a flame of hope for the Arab world in this field.

“I told Sheikh Mohamed that, for me, today is the day that I returned to Earth.”

Also present at the airport to receive Al Mansouri were senior officials from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), and Sheikh Mohamed’s grandchildren. Al Mansouri’s own children were there too and eagerly greeted him with bouquets of flowers and hugs.

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