The SpaceX spacecraft departed Thursday for the International Space Station (ISS) with four astronauts on board, including an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates.

A Falcon 9 rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center shortly after midnight local time. Nearly eighty interested people from the United Arab Emirates watched as Arab astronaut Sultan al-Najadi departed on a six-month mission to the space station.

NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg, as well as Russia’s Andrei Fegyev, blasted off in the Dragon space capsule. Najdi is the second Emirati astronaut to reach the space station, in 2019 Hazza Ali Al Mansouri was the first to spend a week there.

The SpaceX crew was originally supposed to take off a few days earlier, but the takeoff had to be delayed due to technical reasons.

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Hoburg, Vegeyeff, and Negade are walking in space for the first time, but this is Bowen’s fourth. The four astronauts are expected to dock with Dragon on Friday at the space station, where they will spend half a year. They will replace the US-Russian-Japanese team Nicole Mann, Josh Kasada, Vakata Koichi and Anna Kikina, who have been there since October, and will return home in a few days.

Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitry Petlin, and Frank Rubio will also reside on the space station, staying until September. Their mission has been extended because a leak was detected in the Soyuz space capsule they arrived with last September.

And Sarah Al-Amiri, Minister of Education in the United Arab Emirates, confirmed that Najadi’s long mission “opens a new space for the state for scientific and scientific discoveries.”

The UAE already has a spacecraft orbiting Mars and is also sending a smaller one to the Moon with a Japanese lander.

After Najadi, two Saudi astronauts will also travel to the space station in the spring aboard a SpaceX spacecraft for a short mission funded by their country.

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