There are several reasons why UAE’s recent space flight, with UAE’s “astronaut” Hazzaa Al Mansoori, is pretty much a media stunt bordering on propaganda.
Hazzaa Al Mansoori is not an astronaut
Although the UAE and it’s media have declared him as an astronaut, something they have the power to do locally without any sort of transparent process, he is far from one.
According to NASA’s website, he was just a “spaceflight participant”, whereas other crew members, such as Jessica Meir, were referred to as astronauts.
As far as the ISS mission goes, he was nothing more than a space tourist. His previous flight experience as a former Emirati F-16 Pilot made him one of the best candidates for space tourism, and that reduced the training required to physically be there.
As per The New York Times, the UAE paid an undisclosed amount of money to have him aboard the mission. He was sent back after only 8 days, with the mission continuing without him.
He was not the first Arab to go into space
UAE’s local media attempted to mislead the public into thinking he was the first Arab into space using the “space station” terminology. He may have been the first Arab on the International Space Station, but not the first Arab in space.
A famous Saudi YouTuber, on one of his channels, released 3 videos criticizing the UAE’s disregard for the Saudi and Syrian astronauts who have already been to space more than 30 years ago. He expressed his anger at the fact that no mention or celebration was made of their achievement, and that it was very hypocritical of the UAE to claim an Arab or Muslim achievement without mention of them, especially that they are preaching for Arab unity.
He also stated that the UAE is abusing peoples lack of education on space or space-related science with gimmicks and misleading statements and claims to polish their international image.
The UAE is not a “space nation”
The UAE is nowhere near becoming a space nation. Although the UAE has enough money to send one of their citizens to space as a “participant” (aka space tourist), his visit to space practically contributed nothing to space exploration.
In addition to sufficient flight experience, NASA also requires its astronauts to have at least four bachelor degrees in Engineering, Biological Science, Physical Science and Computer Science/Mathematics.
The UAE has not made any significant scientific development due to not having the required educational institutions that are able to instil such kind of educational strive or achievement within its citizens. That’s exactly why the UAE royal family sends its children to study abroad.
It’s extremely unlikely that any of its citizens would aim, succeed or even have the ability to, achieve the required physical, educational and mental development to reach the required basic portfolio of an astronaut.
Even though the UAE managed to send the first Arab to the International Space Station, that is only a financial and marketing accomplishment achieved by an undisclosed amount, taken from tax and/or oil revenues, and is not at all a scientific accomplishment.
When questioned (on live TV) what was UAE’s scientific role in the mission, their astronaut’s answer was a vague one, giving only generic answers that more reflect the mission’s objective, but not his own.
In several of the short clips he released on social media, he can be seen bouncing test tubes with unidentified liquids back and forth from one hand to the other. None of the videos show him performing any kind of scientific task that senior high school students couldn’t achieve.
The UAE has failed to present any sort of documentation on what sort of considerable scientific contributions he has done to space exploration or even humanity.
Hazzaa Al Mansoori is not the brightest of the bunch
UAE’s “first astronaut” is, unfortunately, being ridiculed all over the internet, and is becoming somewhat of a “space clown”.
In his live Q&A session, while people were asking him questions, he seemed mentally busy with doing 360 degrees flips of his microphone.
“My food flies away”
When asked what are some of the difficulties he faces in space. He stated that he always has to be careful while eating because his food manages to fly away. This is quite a surprising statement considering that this “astronaut” is supposedly tasked with running delicate experiments in space and should have had sufficient training to be able to easily keep his food from flying away.
“My head is getting bigger”
When asked about his scientific achievements on the mission, he stated as part of his speech that “I noticed my head was getting bigger”. A statement that is receiving widespread sarcasm online.
The Palm Islands
When asked about what he can see on planet earth from space, he stated that he spends a lot of time from the station’s viewing point looking at the Palm Islands in Dubai and staring and marvelling at its beauty.
The International Space Station is almost 400km far from the earth, travelling at a speed of almost 28,000 km/h, which makes his claim scientifically impossible. If he had any scientific background he wouldn’t trade his credibility just to market Dubai’s Palm Islands. Even a simple check of Google’ Earth app can show that the Palm Islands are barely visible using advanced satellite imaging from 400km.
In an interview, the previous Syrian astronaut who travelled to space stated that it was not possible to see, with the naked eye, any specific part of Syria from space, and he hasn’t even reached the ISS yet.
Hazzaa has been clearly instructed to memorise and recite a few written speeches and claims given to him by the UAE government to polish it’s image and position itself as a space nation or scientific nation to attract investments.
I’m not trying to attack or bring down the UAE’s achievement or efforts. I would be most delighted and proud of an Emirati or even an Arab being an astronaut and taking part in ISS missions. However, I don’t want my pride to be misplaced into a gimmick or PR stunt, I would like it to be placed into real achievements.