UAE and Saudi astronauts could be on board International Space Station together in 2023

It would be the first time astronauts from two Arab countries stay together on the floating labatory

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Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi could be joined by two Saudi colleagues during his stay on the International Space Station next year.

Dr Al Neyadi, 41, a former IT professional from Al Ain, was chosen for the milestone six-month mission in July.

He will blast off next spring on a Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket bound for the floating science laboratory, as part of the Nasa/SpaceX Crew-6 mission. This will be the Arab world’s first long-duration space mission.

Two Saudis, yet to be identified, are expected to take off in the second quarter of 2023 for a two-week stay on the station, as part of the Ax-2 private crew mission, Reuters reported.

Axiom Space, a US-based space company, has helped both countries to secure these trips.

Historic achievement beckons

If things go as planned, the two Saudi astronauts would be the first from the kingdom to reach the ISS ― 37 years after the nation launched the first Arab into space on Nasa's Discovery space shuttle.

It will also mark the first time astronauts from two different Arab countries will be in space together, including the first Arab female astronaut from Saudi Arabia.

Michael Suffredini, president of Axiom Space, said that Saudi Arabia’s mission will expand human space flight opportunities to a larger share of the international community.

"Space belongs to all of humanity, which is one of the reasons Axiom Space is pleased to welcome our new partnership with the Saudi Space Commission to train and fly Saudi astronauts, including the first female Saudi astronaut,” he said earlier this month when the announcement was made.

Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud reads the Koran during his 1985 mission as a payload specialist onboard the space shuttle Discovery. Photo Courtesy NASA *** Local Caption ***  51g-book project - 120.jpg

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman became the first Arab astronaut in 1985, on board the American STS-51-G space shuttle, but a long-term space programme was not undertaken by the kingdom after that mission.

It was a milestone mission for the Arab and Islamic world, with photos showing Prince Sultan reading the Quran and praying on board the space shuttle.

No other Arab astronaut reached space until 2019, when the UAE's Maj Hazza Al Mansouri travelled to the ISS.

Maj Al Mansouri, a former fighter jet pilot, lived on the station for a week and carried out 16 science experiments.

He wore the kandura, a traditional Emirati dress, and gave a live tour of the station in Arabic for the first time.

Now Dr Al Neyadi is training for his trip to the ISS.

The UAE’s astronaut corps has four members so far, with the other two being Mohammed Al Mulla and Nora Al Matrooshi, a female astronaut.

Saudi Arabia announced the launch of its astronaut programme on its National Day on September 22, 2022.

Axiom Space has already completed the AX-1 mission, the first all-private crew to the space station.

The privately funded mission launched on April 8 and landed back on Earth on April 25.

US commercial companies are helping create access to space for countries that do not have launch capabilities.

Turkey also secured a mission for one of its citizens through Axiom, with a launch expected late next year to coincide with the nation's centenary.

This would be Turkey's first astronaut in space.

The country launched its ambitious 10-year space plan in 2021, which includes Moon exploration.

Updated: October 01, 2022, 7:07 AM
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