One day to go: Soyuz set to soar with UAE’s first astronaut


The backup crew, including Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, were present to see the verticalisation.

The Soyuz rocket that’s taking the UAE’s first astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori to space has been put into position for the historic launch on September 25.

Hundreds of people turned up to see the Soyuz FG rocket roll out of a Baikonur Cosmodrome facility and witness the verticalisation process, where it was placed into lift-off position. The backup crew, including Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, were present to see the verticalisation as it’s a Russian tradition for the reserve crew to experience the event. It’s considered ‘bad luck’ for the primary crew to see the rocket positioning prior to launch day.

AlMansoori and Al Neyadi’s families were present during the roll-out and verticalisation. They were all smiles as they watched the rocket that’s going to take their loved one on a historic mission.

Next, the rocket will be refueled and the Soyuz spacecraft will be installed onto the launcher so it’s ready for its six-hour journey to the International Space Station (ISS).

“This is a key milestone for our mission and is a huge achievement for us. We are very proud and happy with the progress so far,” Salem Al Marri, the chief of the UAE Astronaut Programme, told Khaleej Times in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. “The astronauts are doing well and they can’t wait for the launch day. They are very excited and so are we. We’ve been visiting them and we will see them again soon before the big day. As the launch day gets closer, we are getting more and more excited. The UAE flag is visible all around – it’s on the rocket, on the spacecraft and on the launch site. Seeing that makes us feel very happy.”

Transporting the 305,000kg launcher

The roll-out of the rocket began at 6.30am UAE time. The train carrying the rocket travels about 2kmph, which is to ensure the 305,000kg launcher reaches the launch site safely and on time.

By 7.15am, the media and tourists were taken to another location to spot the train passing by. The final destination was the actual launch site, where the verticalisation took place.

The launch pad, known as Site 1 or Gagarin’s Pad, is a historical one as the world’s first man to go to space, Yuri Gagarin, lifted off from there in 1961 and so did the first woman, Valentina Tereshkov, and the first satellite, Sputnik. AlMansoori’s mission will be the last one to utilise this launch pad for a lift-off. All future launches are being relocated to Site 31 as it can support Russia’s new Soyuz 2 rocket.

“It’s really amazing how fate is working out. The Arabic meaning of my name is the last arrow and I’ll be on the last rocket that will be launching from that pad. I’m honoured to conduct this mission,” AlMansoori had told Khaleej Times during an interview in Star City, Russia.

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