When the first Emirati astronaut launches into space today from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, there will be a team behind him today at the RKA Mission Control Center, located in Korolyov near Moscow, Russia.
The trio, Hazza Al-Mansoori from the UAE, Jessica Meir from the US and veteran Russian commander Oleg Skripochka, will launch on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft at 4:57pm local time (6:57pm Kazakhstan time).
The center, which has an active control room for the International Space Station, will monitor the spacecraft’s trajectory until its successful docking. The trio are expected to dock at the ISS outpost after their six-hour flight at 10:45pm local time, with Al-Mansoori’s family watching the launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
This will be the UAE’s first astronaut in space as part of the country’s ambitious space program, and he will be the Arab world’s third. The first, Saudi Prince Sultan bin Salman, travelled to space in 1985 aboard NASA’s Discovery space shuttle.
With the help of Russia’s Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities’ “spaceflight participant” program, Al-Mansoori, along with a number of non-NASA astronauts, is being given a change to fly into space for a few days and participate in various scientific activities on the ISS.
Baikonur, built at the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, is a busy spaceport with numerous commercial, military and scientific missions being launched regularly. A partnership between NASA and the RKA and various other space agencies has seen the launch of many astronauts from there throughout the years.
The number of international astronauts, with exception of the Chinese, riding the Soyuz rockets increased greatly in 2011 after the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle program, with countries shifting reliance to Russia to get their crew up to the ISS.
The Russian Soyuz spacecraft and rockets are well-regarded for their ability to launch in about any weather, which was considered a hindrance with NASA’s space shuttles.
Russia’s space program long predates those of other space agencies. In fact, it kicked off the first space race by launching the world’s first satellite, Sputnik on Oct. 4, 1957.
On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space, with his flight lasting 108 minutes as he circled the Earth for a little more than one orbit aboard the Vostok spacecraft.arabnews