First Emirati astronaut returns home to hero’s welcome
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First Emirati astronaut returns home to hero’s welcome

Hazzaa al-Mansoori, the first Arab to reach the International Space Station, says he was ‘humbled to be a part’ of mission

United Arab Emirates astronaut Hazzaa al-Mansoori gestures shortly after the landing in a space capsule about 150 km (90 miles) south-east of the Kazakh town of Dzhezkazgan on October 3, 2019. (Dmitri Lovetsky/Pool/AFP)
United Arab Emirates astronaut Hazzaa al-Mansoori gestures shortly after the landing in a space capsule about 150 km (90 miles) south-east of the Kazakh town of Dzhezkazgan on October 3, 2019. (Dmitri Lovetsky/Pool/AFP)

An Emirati astronaut who became the first Arab to reach the International Space Station received a hero’s welcome home on Saturday.

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 toward 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 October 3.

United Arab Emirates astronaut Hazzaa al Mansouri, centre, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, bottom, and US astronaut Jessica Meir, top, members of the main crew to the International Space Station (ISS), board the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft for the launch at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, September 25, 2019. (Maxim Shipenkov/Pool Photo via AP)

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.

Mansoori blasted off on September 25 with Jessica Meir, a Swedish-American Jew whose father is Israeli.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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