Crew-7 set for space station as Sultan Al Neyadi prepares to return to Earth

After the handover the Emirati astronaut will begin his journey home

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A new crew is set to launch to the International Space Station on Friday to take over from UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi and his three colleagues.

Crew-7, which includes astronauts from the US, Denmark and Japan, as well as a cosmonaut from Russia, will blast off aboard a SpaceX rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

A handover ceremony will be held a few days after they arrive on the orbiting outpost for their six-month mission.

The completion of the ceremony means Dr Al Neyadi, who arrived on the ISS on March 3, will be allowed to return back to Earth, with his departure currently set for September 1.

Crew-7's launch was approved during an online media briefing held by Nasa and SpaceX on Monday.

Amer Al Sayegh, one of the assistant director generals at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre – which oversees the UAE's astronaut programme – said during the briefing that they were ready to bring Dr Al Neyadi home.

“This brings us closer to the launch of Crew-7 and the return of Crew-6, which includes UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi,” he said.

“This is the second UAE human space flight mission and first long-duration mission, and we're very proud of Sultan for taking part in this.

“He's taken part in more than 200 experiments and they've been very instrumental in allowing us to reach out to the scientific community.”

Dr Al Neyadi will return aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, along with Nasa astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.

They will undock from the station next Friday to begin a 24-hour journey back to Earth, with a splashdown to take place off the coast of Florida.

Nasa said in a statement on Monday that the departing crew have started their preparations for the long trip.

“The soon-to-be departing quartet reviewed their departure activities and Dragon deorbit procedures on computer tablets at the end of the day on Monday,” Nasa said.

“Bowen, Hoburg, and Al Neyadi also tried on specialised garments, also known as orthostatic intolerance garments, that will help their bodies readapt to Earth’s gravity shortly after returning.”

Heartwarming moment UAE's Sultan Al Neyadi speaks to sons from space

Heartwarming moment UAE's Sultan Al Neyadi speaks to sons from space

Dr Al Neyadi will spend the first several days of being back on Earth undergoing medical tests in the US.

He is then expected to return to the UAE for a short while to participate in ceremonies being held in his honour.

The father of six has entered into the history books as the first Arab astronaut to go on an extended space mission and the first to perform a spacewalk.

He followed in the footsteps of his colleague Hazza Al Mansouri, who in 2019 became the first Emirati astronaut in space.

When Maj Al Mansouri returned from his eight-day mission to the ISS, he was received by President Sheikh Mohamed, with a small celebration held on his behalf.

Once Dr Al Neyadi is back in the UAE for a longer stay, he is expected to take part in a roadshow, travelling across the country and abroad to speak to schoolchildren about his experiences.

The UAE astronaut corps has two other members – Nora Al Matrooshi, the first Emirati woman to be selected as an astronaut, and Mohammed Al Mulla.

They are currently training at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, and are expected to graduate early next year.

Once they finish their training, they will become eligible for US-led missions to space.

Updated: August 22, 2023, 11:09 AM