Five top moments of Sultan Al Neyadi’s historic space mission

From spacewalking to farming in microgravity, the UAE astronaut is returning with a wealth of experience

Powered by automated translation

UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi’s historic space mission is coming to an end this week.

His six months on the International Space Station has inspired many, including thousands of young people with whom he interacted through live calls.

Dr Al Neyadi and his American and Russian colleagues are scheduled to return to Earth on September 1.

They will depart on a SpaceX Dragon capsule to begin their 24-hour journey home, ending with a splashdown off the Florida coast.

As Dr Al Neyadi’s record-setting time in space draws to a close, The National looks at five top moments during his stay on the orbiting outpost.


Dr Al Neyadi floated into the history books twice, becoming the first Arab astronaut on an extended space mission and the first to perform a spacewalk.

Sultan Al Neyadi becomes first Arab to walk in space

Sultan Al Neyadi becomes first Arab to walk in space

Footage of him exiting the space station and carrying out a seven-hour maintenance assignment on its exterior was broadcast live on Nasa’s website on April 28.

Dr Al Neyadi and his colleague Stephen Bowen wore 145kg spacesuits that allowed them to step out into the darkness of space.

While they do not feel the weight of the suit because of zero-gravity conditions, astronauts often complain that their sheer bulk makes performing tasks more challenging.

But Dr Al Neyadi carried out the assignment flawlessly and with precision, with a Nasa mission control director telling him he had "surgeon's hands" during the spacewalk.

Arab hospitality in space

A few months into his mission, Dr Al Neyadi was joined by two Saudi astronauts, who arrived at the ISS for an eight-day stay.

Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Al Qarni were welcomed with Emirati hospitality when Dr Al Neyadi presented them with dates and water.

These were history-making moments, as the Arab population in space increased to a record number of three.

Dr Al Neyadi spent his time helping the two astronauts with some of their tasks.

Ms Barnawi became the first Arab woman in space.

Space farming

Scientific experiments have kept Dr Al Neyadi busy on the station.

While most of them involved research on how microgravity affects the human body and mind, others included harvesting plants from the ISS nursery.

In his first week in space, Dr Al Neyadi harvested tomatoes that were grown on the station.

They were then sent back to Earth for analysis.

He also harvested leaves from the nursery last week, which were also delivered to Earth for testing, as space agencies try out methods to produce food in space.

This would help in extended trips to the Moon and beyond, so astronauts do not have to rely on cargo missions from Earth.

A tour of the Arab world from space

One of his main tasks has been documenting Earth from above.

He used his camera to photograph Arab countries from space.

From shots of The Palm Jumeirah in Dubai to Iraq's bustling capital Baghdad to the Suez Canal in Egypt, Dr Al Neyadi has given his followers an aerial tour of the Arab world.

He also filmed video of Gulf countries, including the holy site of Makkah in Saudi Arabia.

Live calls with UAE residents

Dr Al Neyadi also took time out of his busy schedule to engage with residents in his home country.

He carried out live calls with people in all seven emirates, as part of an outreach campaign called A Call From Space.

Pupils, students, space enthusiasts and leaders asked him questions about what life was like in space.

The campaign also went international, with a live call to Mauritius and Washington DC.

Game show host Steve Harvey held a fun conversation with Dr Al Neyadi last week, including what inspired him to become an astronaut.

Updated: August 28, 2023, 12:20 PM