When will UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi return home?

A SpaceX Dragon craft will bring the Emirati trailblazer back to Earth in the coming weeks

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UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi is preparing to return to Earth in the coming weeks after embarking on the Arab world's first extended space mission.

Dr Al Neyadi, who arrived on the International Space Station on March 3, will board a SpaceX Dragon craft together with three colleagues for his journey home, with a splashdown off the coast of Florida.

He is set to exit the orbiting laboratory towards the end of August or in early September, but a specific date cannot be pinned down yet.

The end of the Crew-6 mission can only take place once the astronauts have handed over pending experiments and duties to Crew-7, who are expected to reach the ISS on August 26.

On previous missions, outgoing crews have departed the ISS about a week after the arrival of their replacements.

“Crew-7 is scheduled to dock with the orbiting laboratory on Saturday, August 26 at about 2.45am ET (10.45am UAE time) on the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module,” Nasa has said.

“If needed, Crew-7 has additional launch opportunities on August 26 and 27.”

The ride home

Dr Al Neyadi and his colleagues, Nasa astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, will board a SpaceX Dragon capsule for their journey home.

Saudi astronauts leave International Space Station

Saudi astronauts leave International Space Station

Nasa is expected to issue a timeline closer to the date, but the journey back could take between 16 and 24 hours.

Nasa and SpaceX will live-stream the undocking of the spacecraft from the ISS, as well as the splashdown.

During return of Saudi astronauts Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Al Qarni to Earth in May, SpaceX also live-streamed the crew exiting the capsule.

However, that was a private mission organised by Axiom Space, and it is unclear whether there will be a broadcast of Crew-6 after splashdown.

Landmark mission for the UAE

Dr Al Neyadi has become the first Arab astronaut to carry out an extended space mission, as well as the first Arab to perform a spacewalk.

Salem Al Marri, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, had said that the astronaut will receive a hero's welcome.

“For his return, we’re looking at the end of August or the beginning of September. We expect to give him a hero’s welcome,” Mr Al Marri told The National on Friday.

“When he’s back on Earth, he’ll first go into a kind of medical rehabilitation, such as physiotherapy, blood [tests] and a lot of science work that will need to be completed in those first days.

“Then he’ll come to the UAE and participate in a lot of activities before going back to the US to continue his debrief.”

Dr Al Neyadi had told the media during a live call that he was looking forward to coming back and seeing his family.

His mission is expected to help pave the way for more extended space missions by UAE astronauts, as well as an increased partnership with Nasa and other international space agencies and companies.

The UAE has four citizens in its astronaut corps, including the first Emirati to go into space, Hazza Al Mansouri, as well as its newest members, Nora Al Matrooshi and Mohammed Al Mulla.

Nasa and its partners have decided to keep the ISS operational until 2030, but it will eventually be retired.

The UAE is one of many countries that has set its sights on the Moon, as international space ambitions focus more on what is beyond low-Earth orbit.

Updated: August 07, 2023, 4:27 PM