The first Emirati astronaut has returned to Earth after an eight day mission to the International Space Station, landing with Russian and American crewmates were were in orbit for seven months.
Hazzaa AlMansoori of the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) touched down with Aleksey Ovchinin of Roscosmos and Nick Hague of NASA aboard Russia's Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft. Descending under a parachute and slowed by braking thrusters, the capsule landed on the steppe of Kazakhstan, near the town of Dzhezkazgan, at 6:59 a.m. EDT (1059 GMT or 4:59 p.m. local time) on Thursday (Oct. 3).
Met by Russian recovery forces and members of their respective space agencies, Ovchinin, Hague and AlMansoori were helped out of their spacecraft and given brief medical exams as they began adjusting to being back on Earth. The three appeared to be in good health, smiling and talking to family members by phone.
The landing brought to a close Ovchinin and Hague's 203-day mission, during which they served on the space station's 59th and 60th expedition crews. The two arrived at the orbiting lab on March 14, 2019, five months after they survived an inflight abort on their first attempt at reaching the station.
AlMansoori, as a spaceflight participant flying under a contract between Russia and the UAE, lifted off with his landing crewmates' replacements, Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos and Jessica Meir of NASA, on Soyuz MS-15 on Sept. 25. For eight days, he, Skripochka, Meir, Ovchinin and Hague worked together with Expedition 60 crew members Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos, Andrew Morgan of NASA and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency (ESA).
On Tuesday (Oct. 2), Ovchinin handed over command of the station to Parmitano, a first for an astronaut from Italy.
"This has been a long and interesting flight," said Ovchinin during a brief televised change of command ceremony. "It has been exciting, it has been a thrill and ride."
Ovchinin, Hague and AlMansoori's departure from the station marked the official end of Expedition 60 and start of Expedition 61. Soyuz MS-12 undocked from the Rassvet module at 3:37 a.m. EDT (0737 GMT).
Three and a half hours later, after a de-orbit burn at 6:06 a.m. EDT (1006 GMT), the Soyuz and its crew were safely on the ground.
AlMansoori logged 7 days, 21 hours and 1 minute circling Earth 128 times on his first spaceflight. A 35-year-old former military pilot, he was selected for the UAE astronaut program from a pool of more than 4,000 applicants. In addition to representing his country, AlMansoori was also the third Arab to fly in space after Prince Sultan bin Salman al-Saud of Saudi Arabia and Muhammed Faris of Syria.
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Hague, 44, has now completed his second spaceflight after reaching the fringes of space on the Soyuz MS-10 abort. A member of NASA's 2013 astronaut class (nicknamed the "8 Balls"), Hague conducted three extravehicular activities (EVAs, or spacewalks) totaling 19 hours and 56 minutes outside the space station.
Ovchinin, 48, completed his third mission to the station (including the MS-10 abort). In 2016, he served as an Expedition 47/48 flight engineer. With more than 374 days in space — including one EVA lasting 6 hours and 1 minute — he now ranks 31st out of the 572 people who have flown in space by total time spent off Earth.
Departing their landing site, Ovchinin, Hague and AlMansoori will be flown by helicopter to the Kazakh town of Karaganda for a welcome ceremony before Ovchinin and AlMansoori leave for Star City, near Moscow, and Hague boards a NASA jet for the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Soyuz MS-12 was the 58th Soyuz to launch for the International Space Station. It traveled 80.8 million miles (130 million km) completing 3,248 orbits of Earth.
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