WATCH: Soyuz spacecraft carrying the UAE’s first astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori dock with International Space Station

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This photo provided by NASA astronaut Christina Koch shows the launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket, as seen from the International Space Station on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. (Christina Koch/NASA via AP)
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International Space Station (ISS) crew member, UAE astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori waves as he boards the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft before its blasts off for the ISS, on Wednesday at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (AFP)
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The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz MS-15 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. The Russian rocket carries U.S. astronaut Jessica Meir, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, and United Arab Emirates astronaut Hazza Al-Mmansoori. (AP)
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the Soyuz MS-15 spaceship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station (ISS) streaks into the sky during liftoff at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome. (AP/Nasa)
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The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz MS-15 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station, ISS, blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. The Russian rocket carries U.S. astronaut Jessica Meir, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, and United Arab Emirates astronaut Hazza Al-Mmansoori. (AP)
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Members of the main crew to the International Space Station (ISS) (from L) United Arab Emirates' astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and US astronaut Jessica Meir report to Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin (R) arrive to board a Soyuz rocket to the ISS, at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on September 25, 2019. (AFP)
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Emiratis in Abu Dhabi watch a live broadcast of a Russian Soyuz MS-15, that took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying Emirati Astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori and two other astronauts heading to the International Space Station. (AP)
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People watch screens showing a Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft lifting off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan carrying 35-year-old Emirati astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori to spend eight days aboard the International Space Station, at Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai on September 25, 2019. (AFP)
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Emirati astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri waves to people as he leaves his hotel for a pre-launch preparation at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25, 2019. He’s the first Arab on the International Space Station. (Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP)
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Members of the main crew to the International Space Station (ISS), (From L) United Arab Emirates' astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and US astronaut Jessica Meir leave their hotel. (Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP)
Updated 26 September 2019

WATCH: Soyuz spacecraft carrying the UAE’s first astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori dock with International Space Station

  • Abu Dhabi Crown Prince says Al-Mansoori has taken the UAE to new heights
  • The Soyuz docked with the ISS over the southern pacific after a six hour journey into space

 

MISSION CONTROL, Moscow: The Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft carrying the first Emirati astronaut docked with the International Space Station on Wednesday after launching into space six hours earlier from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Hazza Al-Mansoori from the UAE, Jessica Meir from the US and veteran Russian commander Oleg Skripochka, took off a few minutes before 5pm Saudi time (2pm GMT) to carry them to the International Space Station.

They docked with the ISS at 10:42 p.m. Saudi time (7:42 p.m. GMT) above the southern Pacific Ocean, and the hatch between the two will be opened about two hours later.

The team at the RKA Mission Control Center, located in Korolyov near Moscow, Russia, congratullated the three crew members on a successful and "simply amazing" docking.

Arab News witnessed an exciting day of action inside Mission Control, with a dramatic blast off earlier in teh day. Staff applauded as the spacecraft passed through its crucial phases and passed through the earth's upper atmosphere. 

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed said he was proud to see Al-Mansoori head towards the International Space Station taking the UAE to “new heights”.

Just hours ahead of the launch, Al-Mansoori tweeted that he was filled with an “indescribable feeling of glory.

“Today I carry the dreams and ambition of my country to a whole new dimension,” he said.

The center, which has an active control room for the International Space Station, checked the spacecraft’s trajectory until its successful docking about six hours after take off. Al-Mansoori’s watched the launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. 

In the UAE, Emiratis closely followed the launch, which was played on big screens in Dubai.

“We are very proud of him,” said an Emirati, who had driven with a friend from the emirate of Ajman to Dubai to watch the liftoff on a big screen at City Walk.  

The launch places 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.




the Soyuz MS-15 spaceship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station (ISS) streaks into the sky during liftoff at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome. (AP/Nasa)

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. 




Emiratis in Abu Dhabi watch a live broadcast of a Russian Soyuz MS-15, that took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying Emirati Astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori and two other astronauts heading to the International Space Station. (AP)

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.

When a Saudi went to space
Prince Sultan bin Salman speaks exclusively to Arab News about his 1985 NASA mission and how he became the first Arab, Muslim and royal in space

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Iraqi grand ayatollah: I support the people, and they want change

As strikes resume in Iraq, anti-government protesters stand on a concrete wall set up by security forces in Al-Rashid district in Baghdad on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 10 min 15 sec ago

Iraqi grand ayatollah: I support the people, and they want change

  • Iran’s blatant interference in Iraqi affairs and its involvement in crackdown on protesters angers Ali Sistani

BAGHDAD: A senior adviser to Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani has told Arab News that he does not support the continuation of the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and that the existing political forces did not press for early parliamentary elections with a new election law and an electoral commission. Baghdad and nine southern Shiite-dominated provinces have endured mass demonstrations against the government since Oct. 1.

More than 300 demonstrators have been killed and 15,000 others have been injured, mostly in Baghdad, due to bloody crackdowns led by Abdul Mahdi’s government and his Iranian-backed allies.
Al-Sistani is the leader of the world’s Shiite community and the most influential cleric in Iraq and has been the godfather of the political process since 2003. No government or prime minister can survive without Al-Sistani’s support and blessing.
Protesters, initially protesting against corruption, unemployment and lack of daily basic services, were brutally repressed in the first week of October by Abdul Mahdi’s government and his Iran-backed allies, killing more than 147 demonstrators and wounding more than 6,000 others with live ammunition and tear gas canisters, which stopped demonstrations for two weeks.
But demonstrations resumed on Oct. 25 after Al-Sistani announced his support and the Iraqi government vowed not to use live ammunition.
The return of the protests was accompanied by increasing demands to overthrow Abdul Mahdi’s government and the holding of early national parliamentary elections preceded by the change of the election law and the electoral commission.
Abdul Mahdi and his allies from the political forces announced their agreement to meet the demands of the demonstrators except the dismissal or resignation of Abdul Mahdi or early elections.

PM’s survival
The prime minister’s allies insist on his survival, accompanied by a significant increase in killings, kidnappings and arrests of activists and journalists, with the promotion of news that they have an agreement with Al-Sistani that allows the continuation of Abdul Mahdi’s government, new ministerial and constitutional amendments and a set of important laws, without holding early elections.
Al-Sistani’s office denied that they had concluded such an agreement or that they had anything to do with it.
“The real conviction is the conviction of the people. We have no guardianship over the people, but we support it because the constitution says they are the source of powers,” Sistani’s top aid told Arab News.
“We support peaceful demonstration because it is the right of the citizen … If it remains peaceful, it will affect the state’s convictions.
“We have no confidence that those (political forces) will be able to solve the problem. We see that they are part of the problem, not part of the solution and unless there is a real change within the constitutional items, the problem will remain the same.”

FASTFACTS

• Abdul Mahdi and his allies from the political forces announced their agreement to meet the demands of the demonstrators except the dismissal or resignation of the government, or early elections. 

• Ali Sistani’s top aid tells Arab News that the grand ayatollah does not suppport the continuation of the present government in Iraq.

Iraq ranks high on the list of the most corrupt countries. The system of political, sectarian and ethnic quotas adopted by Iraqi politicians since 2004, which includes the three presidencies and ministries and advanced positions in all state institutions, contributed to the spread of financial and administrative corruption and provided the required protection for corrupt politicians.
“There have been no real treatments for corruption over the past years. Corruption is rampant ... because of the weakness of the judiciary and the regulatory authorities, some of which have sought to use corruption cases to blackmail and enrich themselves.
“Officials are getting rich at the expense of the people. Corruption whales became powerful, while the qualified people have left Iraq and the graduates do not find jobs.
“We have no hope in the existing political forces and the chances of continuation of this government are very small. “They should all leave. This political class must leave.”
Al-Sistani has recently intervened in major events, as happened when the Iraqi Army collapsed and Daesh overran one-third of Iraqi territories in the western and northern parts of the country in the summer of 2014 and advanced toward Baghdad, when he issued an edict (fatwa) demanding that people take up arms and volunteer to support Iraqi forces in their fight against Daesh. Sistani’s intervention this time appeared gradually and through Friday sermons.

Strongest sermon
The last Friday sermon was the strongest to date, as Al-Sistani’s told his followers: “If those who have power (now), think they can evade real reform, with procrastination, they are delusional. The aftermath of these protests will not be the same as before. They should be careful.”
This was understood by most politicians and observers as a yellow ultimatum, which could soon be followed by a warning of expulsion or paralysis of civilian life.
“We do not interfere with particles. We have constitutional mechanisms that we do not want to get out of, but when we found that these mechanisms were tailored to the size of the existing political forces, we demanded a new electoral law that would ensure a genuine representation of the people and a new electoral commission that people trust will safeguard their choices,” Al-Sistani’s aid said.
“We will not allow things to descend into chaos. This is not an option. Our biggest concern is that the law will weaken further, which means slipping into infighting.”
Iran’s blatant interference in Iraqi affairs, reflected by the statements of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who was publicly demanding an end to the demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon, and the involvement of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, in the crackdown on protesters, has angered Al-Sistani. This was evident in his three previous speeches.
“We have a real problem: Iraq is negatively affected by the (regional) environment. We will not allow Iraq to be a battleground for any regional or international party ... we will not allow anyone to interfere in the affairs of Iraq, whether it is a friend or an enemy, because all interventions are aimed at serving special ambitions,” Al-Sistani’s aid said.
“He will not leave the people. If the people’s demand is for early elections, then we support early elections, and if they want to change the (political) system, we support it … and if they say that they do not want this government, we support it.
“Our position is clear and unambiguous. We are with the people in what they want ... and Al-Sistani has not used its strongest weapons yet.”