UAE pupils say Sultan Al Neyadi is pride of the nation before historic space launch

Young children inspired by successes of country's growing space programme

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LIVE STREAM: Sultan Al Neyadi blast-offs off to space

UAE schoolchildren praised Sultan Al Neyadi for making "all Emiratis proud" as he prepares to blast off to the International Space Station on a history-making six-month mission.

Dr Al Neyadi and his three Crew-6 colleagues are expected to launch from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida at 9.34am, UAE time, on Thursday.

Lift-off was initially set for Monday but a technical fault discovered at the 11th hour, involving a chemical used to ignite the Falcon 9 rocket’s powerful Merlin engine, caused the SpaceX flight to be delayed.

Nasa said on Wednesday that the revised flight date was "go for launch" after a readiness review, weather briefing and mission management meeting.

Dr Al Neyadi will embark on the longest space journey undertaken by an Arab astronaut, coming three and half years after Hazza Al Mansouri became the first Emirati to travel into space.

Astronaut is an inspiration

Hamed Al Qubaisi, 16, an Emirati student at Al Bateen Academy in Abu Dhabi, said Dr Al Neyadi's exploits had prompted many pupils to consider careers in the space sector.

“I am very proud of his achievement and what he has accomplished," he said.

“It inspires us a lot. My friends and I like talking about space.

“I will watch his videos and his interviews and I want to know more about how he feels going into space.”

Dr Al Neyadi will speak to pupils across the country each week during his space odyssey.

Live streams and pre-recorded videos will be broadcast each week to hundreds of schools in the country, in which Dr Al Neyadi will share what life in space is like.

For Omar El Tamamy, 15, an Egyptian pupil at Al Bateen Academy, the latest UAE space project is a proud moment for the entire Arab world.

“I'm currently working on astrophysics and on my physics lessons, which I really enjoy. I love learning about the different stars and planets,” Omar said.

Eight-year-old Emirati Saqr Al Naqbi is captivated by the achievements of both Maj Al Mansouri and Dr Al Neyadi.

“I am now more proud that we have a second astronaut going to space … an Emirati going to space again," said the second-grade pupil at American International School in Abu Dhabi.

The pupil is enthralled by space and has covered his room in drawings of astronauts.

He is not alone in feeling star-struck.

In October, Repton Abu Dhabi set a Guinness world record for the largest gathering of people dressed as astronauts.

A total of 940 young learners aged between 7 and 12 swapped their uniforms for self-made spacesuits adorned with badges marking the country they hail from.

The school made the record attempt to celebrate the UAE's rapid advances in space exploration.

'He is representing all Emiratis'

Abdul Aziz Al Otaiba, 18, an Emirati pupil at Gems Wellington Academy Al Khail in Dubai, said he would like to ask Dr Al Neyadi what made him want to become an astronaut.

Mr Al Otaiba shared the same ambition as a young child, but now hopes to apply for studies in business relationships or politics.

Yet he is still in awe of Dr Al Neyadi.

"He makes all the Emiratis proud and he took a big responsibility," Mr Al Otaiba said.

"He's representing all the Emiratis and deserves it because he worked hard for it.

"I wish him the best and hope he comes back safely."

He said his school had organised assemblies and classes on space to inform pupils of the mission.

Syeda Hussain, a 15-year-old Pakistani pupil at Gems Metropole School, grew up in the UAE and was excited to have an astronaut from the country go to space.

"I'm very, very excited ...as a girl with profound interest in Stem [an umbrella term for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics], witnessing an astronaut from the UAE embarking on a journey to the final frontier fills me with a sense of great ambition and passion to push the boundaries of what is possible," she said.

Excited for Dr Al Neyadi's journey to the stars, Shaikha Saeed Al Falasi, 3, wore a space suit to school last week.

"I love the UAE," said the pupil at the American Academy for Girls in Dubai when asked why she donned the uniform.

Amna Mohammed, a nine-year-old Emirati pupil also at the American Academy for Girls, has written articles on Dr Al Neyadi.

"He is an inspirational person. And he's also very brave to go to space," she said.

“I know he will do lots of tests in six months and we will be watching him."

Updated: March 02, 2023, 6:57 AM