President Sheikh Mohamed hails Sultan Al Neyadi's historic spacewalk

Emirati astronaut became the first Arab to perform a spacewalk

Sultan Al Neyadi before his history-making spacewalk on Friday. Photo: Sultan Al Neyadi
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Watch live: Sultan Al Neyadi embarks on historic spacewalk

President Sheikh Mohamed on Friday hailed Sultan Al Neyadi's historic spacewalk, saying that the UAE is continuing to make a meaningful contribution to space exploration and science.

Dr Al Neyadi, a father of six from Al Ain, exited the International Space Station on Friday at 5.41pm GST alongside Nasa colleague Stephen Bowen to begin a six-and-a-half-hour maintenance assignment.

He became the first Arab astronaut to perform a spacewalk.

“With this week’s new discoveries by the Hope probe, the achievements of the Rashid rover mission and Sultan Al Neyadi’s first ever spacewalk by an Arab astronaut, the UAE continues to make a meaningful contribution to space exploration and advancements in science,” Sheikh Mohamed said on Twitter.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, also shared his pride after Dr Al Neyadi etched his name in the record books.

“After three years of intensive training, today we saw Sultan Al Neyadi on the first mission to walk in outer space, carrying out missions to install new parts and carry out maintenance on the International Space Station,” Sheikh Mohammed wrote on Twitter.

“The first Emirati, the first Arab, the first Muslim, to walk in outer space. Proud of that.

“They say that two thirds of the stars in the sky bear Arabic names. Arabs are capable, Arabs are coming, Arabs are creative if we decide to focus on science and invest in youth and stay away from differences.”

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, lauded the landmark moment in the UAE's space ambitions.

“The UAE's space programme has achieved a new historic milestone with Sultan Al Neyadi becoming the first Arab to perform a spacewalk,” Sheikh Hamdan wrote on Twitter.

“We extend our congratulations to the UAE's leadership, its people and the entire region for this remarkable accomplishment.

“We take great pride in this achievement and celebrate this momentous occasion. We also wish Sultan Al Neyadi a safe and successful mission.”

Dr Al Neyadi and Mr Bowen carried out numerous tasks during their time outside the ISS.

These included retrieving and relocating foot restraints that astronauts can use in future spacewalks and preparing part of the station for a future solar array installation. They also attempted to unbolt and retrieve a piece of communications hardware but were unsuccessful.

Their spacewalk officially began at 5.11pm when their spacesuits switched to battery power.

Dr Al Neyadi had already broken new ground as the first Arab astronaut to be chosen for a long-duration journey through space.

He arrived on the ISS on March 3 to begin a six-month mission aboard the orbiting laboratory.

He received support before his momentous spacewalk from Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati to travel to space.

Maj Al Mansouri spent eight days on board the ISS in September 2019.

“My brother Sultan, today you are on a new date with history, the first Arab mission to walk in space,” said Maj Al Mansouri.

“We trained together on this task for three years and I am one of those who know how hard I worked and prepared.”

In what has been a busy week for UAE space exploration, on Tuesday the Rashid rover became the first Arab spacecraft to reach lunar orbit.

Although contact was lost with the Japanese spacecraft carrying the rover during the final descent to the Moon, a second UAE lunar rover mission was announced soon after. This will build on knowledge and expertise gained.

Shortly before that, the UAE’s Hope probe — which is orbiting Mars and adding to discoveries about the Red Planet — sent back data that brings into question the origins of a Martian moon.

Updated: April 28, 2023, 8:49 PM