UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi begins six-month mission on the International Space Station

He will take part in more than 200 science experiments while on board and may perform a spacewalk

'The UAE is taking great steps in space': Sultan Al Neyadi begins mission

'The UAE is taking great steps in space': Sultan Al Neyadi begins mission
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As it happened: Sultan Al Neyadi's journey to the ISS

UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi arrived at the International Space Station on Friday, marking the beginning of his milestone six-month mission on the orbiting science laboratory.

Dr Al Neyadi, 41, has become the second Emirati to reach space and the second Arab to board the space station.

During his time there, he will take part in more than 200 experiments assigned by Nasa and 19 others involving UAE universities.

He could also perform the first spacewalk by an Arab astronaut.

'I can't be happier than this'

“I would like to thank my mum and dad and the leadership of the UAE and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, who trusted me for this mission,” he said during a welcoming ceremony on the station.

“I can't be happier than this. Seeing old friends in space and gathering as a big family in space."

Dr Al Neyadi said the mission reflected the essence of space exploration.

"The UAE is taking great steps in pushing the boundaries in exploration and co-operating with spacefaring nations,” he said.

The Dragon capsule, which carried Dr Al Neyadi and his three crewmates, docked on the ISS at 10.40am UAE time.

The astronauts, who are now called Expedition 68 crew members, entered the station at 12.40pm.

Dr Al Neyadi travelled with Nasa astronauts Stephen Bowing and Woody Hoburg and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.

Mr Bowing was at the space station 11 years ago, but this is the first time in space for the other three.

Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev, the current commander on the ISS, welcomed the astronauts.

“Hello everybody. So glad to have our friends here. It's amazing to see your smiles and looking forward to working together,” he said.

“Steve, Sultan, Andrey and Woody — my congratulations for joining us. I would also like to congratulate those who are in space for the first time.

“This is an important part of your lift. They are real astronauts now and I wish you wellness here and a happy flight.”

The trip to space for Dr Al Neyadi comes after five years of rigorous training around the world.

He was one of the first two astronauts chosen by the UAE in 2018, alongside Hazza Al Mansouri, who became the first Emirati in space the following year.

Dr Al Neyadi trained in Russia, parts of Europe and Canada, in addition to completing Nasa’s basic training programme in Houston. He also did mission-specific training for this trip.

He has learnt to speak Russian, spent hours daily in space simulators to familiarise his body with the effects of microgravity, trained to fly supersonic jets and completed spacewalk training.

Hamad Al Mansoori, chairman of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, congratulated the astronauts on their mission.

“Congratulations to all of you on your successful arrival to the International Space Station,” he said.

“Your mission to space represents a huge milestone for SpaceX, Nasa and the UAE.

“Crew-6, you have become part of our community back home in the UAE.”

Dr Al Neyadi carried with him a stuffed-toy version of Suhail, the mascot of the UAE space centre, which was used as the zero-gravity indicator during his flight on the Dragon capsule.

He will spend the next six months doing experiments, carrying out maintenance tasks on the station and outreach activities for the public in the UAE.

The father of six will be able to communicate with his family members in the Emirates through email, voice and video calls.

But, he has a heavy schedule throughout the mission, with lots of activities planned.

He has also taken a jiu-jitsu suit with him and said he would be doing some sessions while floating in microgravity.

He will also be spending a lot of time doing photography, including snapping images of the UAE and other Arab countries from space.

Updated: March 04, 2023, 4:58 AM