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Three spacefliers, including first Emirati in orbit, return to Earth from space station

Alan Boyle
Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates is carried to a medical tent shortly after he and fellow spacefliers Nick Hague and Alexei Ovchinin landed in their Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. (NASA Photo / Bill Ingalls)

Today’s landing of a Soyuz spacecraft in Kazakhstan brought one of the shortest recent stays on the International Space Station to an end, as part of a plan for one of the longest stays.

The first representative of the United Arab Emirates to fly in space, Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, was part of the returning trio, along with NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russia’s Alexey Ovchinin. All three seemed to be in good shape as they were brought out of their Soyuz and underwent an initial round of medical checks.

Almansoori spent a mere eight days on the station, under an arrangement with Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency. The other two wrapped up a 203-day tour of duty in orbit.

Hague and Ovchinin rode the same three-person Soyuz craft up to the station in March, with NASA astronaut Christina Koch filling the third seat. Koch, however, is pulling extra time in zero-G as part of NASA’s effort to study the effects of long-term spaceflight.

She’ll return to Earth in a different Soyuz next February, and her anticipated 328 days in orbit is due to set a women’s record for continuous time in space.

During his stint in space, Almansoori pitched in on the station’s science experiments, including a study focusing on how fluids behave in zero-G. He also snapped dozens of photographs, including views of Abu Dhabi, Mecca and Egypt’s Nile River region as well as a mascot doll nicknamed Suhail.

In his final tweet from space, Almansoori said he wouldn’t be the last Emirati in space:

The spacefliers who flew up to the station last week alongside Almansoori, NASA’s Jessica Meir and Russia’s Oleg Skripochka, will stay on duty until April.

They’ll be accompanied at that time by NASA’s Andrew Morgan — who, like Koch, is taking on a longer-than-usual space mission.

Koch’s crewmates for February’s homecoming flight will be Italy’s Luca Parmitano and Russia’s Alexander Skvortsov.

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