Sultan Al Neyadi to return to UAE on Monday after space mission

Hero's welcome expected following six months on space station

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UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi is set to return to the Emirates on Monday after his six-month mission on the International Space Station (ISS).

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre announced his homecoming date on Thursday.

Dr Al Neyadi landed back on Earth on September 4 and has been taking part in a recovery programme in Houston, Texas, to help him readapt to gravity.

"It is now time for his homecoming," the space centre said.

"Stay tuned for his return to the UAE on 18 September, following the completion of the longest Arab space mission in history."

Dr Al Neyadi set a few firsts during his time on the ISS, including completing the first spacewalk by an Arab astronaut.

He is set to receive a hero's welcome in the UAE, with celebrations to be held in his honour.

Mango salad was Sultan Al Neyadi’s favourite food in space

Mango salad was Sultan Al Neyadi’s favourite food in space

Dr Al Neyadi followed in the footsteps of colleague Hazza Al Mansouri, who in 2019 became the first Emirati in space.

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

Salem Al Marri, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, told The National in an earlier interview that preparations were under way to welcome Dr Al Neyadi, including meetings with leaders, celebrations and roadshows.

“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," he said.

“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 gave his first public address on Tuesday when he took part in an online briefing hosted by Nasa.

He spoke about some of his favourite memories while on the station, including eating mango salad, playing chess and taking photos of Earth during his spacewalk.

He also shared insights on his struggle of adjusting to gravity soon after landing back on Earth.

"It felt really, really heavy," Dr Al Neyadi said.

"I was the last one to egress the capsule and I didn't notice my straps were off until the recovery team started to pull me, and I thought, 'Wow, it was only my weight pressing me towards the seat.'

"I remember Steve [colleague Stephen Bowen] handing me a bottle of water. It felt really heavy. I just did not drink it because I didn't want to move a lot.

"But it's amazing how quickly you can get better by the hour."

After his next mission debrief in the US, Dr Al Neyadi will return to the UAE for a longer stay involving another series of roadshows across the country, so he can share his experiences with the public.

Updated: September 14, 2023, 1:07 PM