The UAE’s first two astronauts have graduated from Nasa’s basic training programme and are now eligible for space missions led by the US space agency.
Both will now begin training for the Nasa-SpaceX Crew-6 mission, a six-month science trip to the orbiting laboratory.
Only one of them will fly to space, while the other will be the back-up astronaut for the mission.
“It's an exceptional feeling when 20 months of assiduous training pays off,” said Dr Al Neyadi, a former IT professional who will probably be the astronaut who makes the journey.
“A big thank you to MBRSC [Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre] and the Nasa team, my colleague Hazza and everyone who supported me in being awarded the Nasa astronaut pin.
“Our training continues towards achieving bigger goals.”
Maj Al Mansouri, a former fighter jet pilot for the UAE Armed Forces, became the first Emirati in space when he launched to the ISS on a Russian Soyuz rocket in 2019 for an eight-day trip. He could be the back-up astronaut for the latest mission.
Training for the new mission
The pair's basic training at Nasa involved learning how to perform spacewalks, the systems of the ISS, operating the station’s robotic arm Canadarm2 and other robotics.
Now, they will start mission training, including learning the systems of the SpaceX Dragon capsule, the spacecraft placed on top of the Falcon 9 rocket, which delivers the astronauts to the ISS.
On the SpaceX Crew-6 mission, the Emirati astronaut will serve as a mission specialist, alongside Nasa astronauts Stephen Bowen, spacecraft commander, and Warren Hoburg, who will serve as Dragon’s pilot.
During the astronaut’s stay on the station, he will carry out an educational campaign for youth in the Middle East and several scientific experiments.
Because both Maj Al Mansouri and Dr Al Neyadi are qualified to perform spacewalks, a trip outside of the station could also be on the cards.
What are the Nasa astronaut pins?
Nasa has been awarding lapel pins since 1963 to astronauts who complete basic training.
The silver ones are given to those who have completed their training, but are yet to fly to space.
Gold ones are awarded to astronauts who have already flown to space.
Maj Al Mansouri was given the gold one during Sunday's ceremony, while Dr Al Neyadi received the silver one.