UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi is hoping that his next voyage to space will include a visit to a planned station in the Moon’s orbit.
Nasa has plans to build a small station – called Lunar Gateway – that would begin to orbit the Moon by the end of this decade.
Astronauts would use the structure as a base before descending to the lunar surface to carry out exploration missions.
Dr Al Neyadi, 42, was speaking at a briefing on Monday, hours after he landed in Abu Dhabi from Houston, Texas.
He received a grand reception in his home country after completing a six-month mission aboard the International Space Station.
“We all know about the Gateway,” Dr Al Neyadi said in a response to a question by The National.
“It's a proposed station that will orbit the Moon, so I would love to be part of it.”
The station is part of Nasa's Artemis programme, which aims to put humans on the Moon for long-term missions.
Space agencies are looking to retire the ISS by the end of this decade due to rising costs and ageing infrastructure. Focus has instead shifted to missions to the Moon and Mars.
The National reported last year that the UAE was exploring ways of helping design the Gateway, including providing an airlock module on the station.
This is an airtight room that astronauts would use to enter and exit the space station.
It would be a turning point for the UAE's space programme, which could help give Emirati astronauts access to the Moon.
Dr Al Neyadi said that training for these kinds of missions is crucial.
“I would to love to go there but it depends on the opportunity and suitability for the mission,” he said.
“As you know, space has a lot of effects. We don't know what could happen. Bodies receive a lot of radiation.
“We're still under the process of identifying what sort of impact the six months in space has had on my body.”
Spend time in nature
Dr Al Neyadi, born and raised in Al Ain, also spoke about what he plans to do now that he is back home.
The father of six wants to spend time in nature and with his children, as well as pray.
His daughter and two of his sons greeted their father on Monday as he exited the aircraft.
“I think it was good to see all of them here and I said hello to all of them,” said Dr Al Neyadi.
“So, if I go to home tonight, I think first thing I'm going to do is sleep and then would love to go out into the nature.
“I would love to pray and spend some quality time with the family. Explain everything to them and answer questions they'll have.”
More missions for Emirati astronauts
The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre hopes to secure missions to the ISS every two to three years.
It also has Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati in space, Nora Al Matrooshi and Mohammed Al Mulla in its astronaut corps.
Ms Al Matrooshi, the first Emirati woman to be selected as an astronaut, and Mr Al Mulla are currently training in Nasa's Johnson Space Centre in Houston.
They will become eligible for missions once they graduate early next year.
Maj Al Mansouri, who spent eight days aboard the ISS in 2019, said at the briefing that he was proud of Dr Al Neyadi.
“In this second mission, we've proved to everyone that if you're dedicated, you can achieve anything,” he said.
“We were happy to see his smile after he landed. This mission wasn't easy – it was six months in space, but it's going be written in history and we're all very proud of this.”