National Geographic's new documentary focuses on the UAE’s first astronaut
The United Arab Emirates’ first ever endeavour into space is extremely close. As if the excitement in the Middle East wasn’t great enough, National Geographic has documented the mission in partnership with Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC).
Hazza Al Mansouri - the first UAE astronaut, fellow Emirati and back up crew member Sultan Al Neyadi, and the rest of the crew aboard the Soyuz MS-15 will set off to the International Space Station (ISS) on September 25 at 5:56pm UAE time. The team will then return to Earth on October 3, at 4:48pm. Al Mansouri will become the first Emirati astronaut and mark the UAE’s first successful mission to the ISS.
The documentary, which launches today, is broken up into a four-part film series and captures the scientific and emotional stories behind Al Mansouri’s mission. The documentary intertwines backstories and follows the start of the UAE’s space industry from more than a decade ago.
With behind-the-scenes access, the film follows the progression of the Emirati Astronaut Corps, part of the UAE Astronaut Programme and their preparations for launching into space, such preparations include total isolation from the outside world for an extended period.
A father and graduate of Khalifa bin Zayed Air College, Al Mansoori joined MBRSC as an astronaut following a career as military pilot. He hopes to inspire his country by placing the UAE flag inside the ISS.
“It will be a great honour to be the first Emirati astronaut to reach the ISS.”
“I remember in grade four I read in my schoolbook about an Arab astronaut, Prince Sultan bin Salman Al Saud, and I thought that’s it – it’s possible for me. That’s why I applied to join the air force – it felt a little bit closer to the stars.”
Al Neyadi, who holds a PhD in Information Technology Data Leakage Prevention from Griffith University, talks about his inspirations and goals as well.
“I believe that our journey is just a continuation of what our ancestors started. They studied the stars for centuries and gave them many Arabic names. When we explore space and raise the UAE flag on board the ISS, we are the nation’s ambassadors. We hope to accomplish this mission perfectly.”
Not only will the series follow the journey of Al Mansouri, it will also hone in on future Emirati space missions. It will educate viewers on the 2020 Hope probe which makes up part of a wider mission for the UAE to reach Mars by 2021 and later colonise it more than 100 years in the future.
The Hope probe is dubbed as the “first true weather satellite [on Mars]”, it will orbit the Red Planet to study its atmospheric layers, sending the information back to the UAE and the rest of the scientific world.
The show premieres on National Geographic Abu Dhabi at 8pm UAE time/7pm KSA time on September 19, with repeated airings on September 22 at 10pm UAE time/9pm KSA time and on September 23 at 8pm UAE time/7pm KSA time.