First Arab set for ISS says voyage will make ‘history’

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From left, UAE astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, and US astronaut Jessica Meir, members of the main crew to the International Space Station (ISS), and UAE astronaut Sultan Al-Neyadi, Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov and US astronaut Thomas Marshburn, members of the back up crew attend a news conference trough a safety glass in Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. (AP)
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The rocket is set to blast into space from Baikonur in Kazakhstan. (@astro_hazzaa)
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Member of the main crew to the International Space Station (ISS) United Arab Emirates' astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori laughs as he gives a press conference at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 24, 2019. (AFP)
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(FromL) Members of the main crew to the International Space Station (ISS), United Arab Emirates’ astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and US astronaut Jessica Meir pose during a press conference at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 24, 2019. (AFP)
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From left, UAE astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, and US astronaut Jessica Meir, members of the main crew to the International Space Station (ISS), and UAE astronaut Sultan Al-Neyadi, Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov and US astronaut Thomas Marshburn, members of the back up crew attend a news conference trough a safety glass in Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. (AP)
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Russia’s Soyuz-FG booster rocket with the Soyuz MS-15 space ship that will carry new crew to the International Space Station (ISS) is raised upright at the launch pad at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. (AP)
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United Arab Emirates astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori, member of the main crew to the International Space Station (ISS), walks after a news conference in Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. (AP)
Updated 24 September 2019

First Arab set for ISS says voyage will make ‘history’

  • Astronaut Hazzaa Al-Mansoori will make history by becoming the first Arab on the ISS
  • He said the trip was a milestone for his country and the Arab world

MOSCOW: The Emirati astronaut who will make history by becoming the first Arab on the International Space Station said Tuesday he had received support from around the world before his “dream” mission.
Hazza Al-Mansoori, 35, is set to blast into space accompanied by Russia’s Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir onboard a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan on Wednesday.
Mansoori, who will spend eight days on the ISS, will be the first Emirati astronaut and the first Arab on the orbiting laboratory, but not the first Muslim.




From left, UAE astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, and US astronaut Jessica Meir, members of the main crew to the International Space Station (ISS), pose during a news conference in Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. (AP)

“It is really an honor and we are looking forward to make this mission successful and to come back with a lot of knowledge,” the pilot told a pre-flight news conference.
He said the trip was a milestone for his country and the Arab world.
“This achievement will be in history and it will be continued,” he said. “The dream has come true.”

Mansoori said that he would record his prayer routine on the ISS and broadcast it to people on Earth.
“As a fighter pilot I already prayed in my aircraft,” he said, explaining that he had experience of prayers at high speed.
Mansoori also plans to conduct experiments and said he would take Emirati food with him to share with the crew.

Skripochka, first-time flyer Meir and Mansoori will join a six-member crew on the ISS and for a brief period of time the ISS will be home to nine astronauts.
Meir, 42, said it was “quite an achievement” for the United Arab Emirates to have a man in space, given that its program is so new.
She said the crew communicated by using “Runglish” — a mixture of Russian and English.
“We still need to work on our Arabic,” she joked.
Mansoori is set to return to Earth with NASA’s Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin on October 3. Skripochka and Meir are set to remain on the ISS until the spring of 2020.


US to pull last troops from north Syria

Updated 14 October 2019

US to pull last troops from north Syria

  • The developments illustrate Washington’s waning influence over events in Syria
  • Turkey aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of US’s Kurdish-led ally the Syrian Democratic Forces

WASHINGTON/BEIRUT: The United States said on Sunday it will withdraw its remaining 1,000 troops from northern Syria in the face of an expanding Turkish offensive while Syria’s army struck a deal with Kurdish forces to redeploy along its border with Turkey, both major victories for Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The developments illustrate Washington’s waning influence over events in Syria and the failure of the US policy of keeping Assad from reasserting state authority over areas lost during the more than eight-year conflict with rebels trying to end his rule.
The developments also represent wins for Russia and Iran, which have backed Assad since 2011 when his violent effort to crush what began as peaceful protests against his family’s decades-long rule of Syria exploded into a full-blown civil war.
While the US withdrawal moves American troops out of the line of fire, the return of Syrian soldiers to the Turkish border opens up the possibility of a wider conflagration should the Syrian army come in direct conflict with Turkish forces.
The Turkish onslaught in northern Syria has also raised the prospect that Daesh militants and their families held by the Kurdish forces targeted by Turkey may escape — scores were said to have done so already — and permit the group’s revival.
The remarkable turn of events was set in motion a week ago when US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw about 50 special operations forces from two outposts in northern Syria, a step widely seen as paving the way for Turkey to launch its week-long incursion against Kurdish militia in the region.
Turkey aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of Washington’s Kurdish-led ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has been a key US ally in dismantling the “caliphate” set up by Daesh militants in Syria.
Ankara regards the YPG as a terrorist group aligned with Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said the offensive would extend from Kobani in the west to Hasaka in the east and extend some 30 kilometers into Syrian territory, with the town of Ras al Ain now in Turkish control.
US Defense Secretary Mike Esper said the United States decided to withdraw its roughly 1,000 troops in northern Syria — two US officials told Reuters it could pull the bulk out in days — after learning of the deepening Turkish offensive.
It was unclear what would happen to the several hundred US troops at the American military outpost of Tanf, near Syria’s southern border with Iraq and Jordan.
Another factor behind the decision, Esper indicated in an interview with the CBS program “Face the Nation,” was that the SDF aimed to make a deal with Russia and Syria to counter the Turkish onslaught. Several hours later, the Kurdish-led administration said it had struck just such an agreement for the Syrian army to deploy along the length of the border with Turkey to help repel Ankara’s offensive.
The deployment would help the SDF in countering “this aggression and liberating the areas that the Turkish army and mercenaries had entered,” it added, referring to Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, and would also allow for the liberation of other Syrian cities occupied by the Turkish army such as Afrin.
The fighting has sparked Western concerns that the SDF, holding large swathes of northern Syria once controlled by Daesh, would be unable to keep thousands of militants in jail and tens of thousands of their family members in camps.