Astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi returns to UAE today: What will he do after 6-month space mission?

Despite long stint aboard the ISS, subsequent challenges in adapting to our planet's gravity after return, the 42-year-old remains ready for his next mission

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Nandini Sircar

Published: Sun 17 Sep 2023, 2:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 18 Sep 2023, 7:07 AM

After astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi raised the UAE flag in space for six proud months, it is now time for his homecoming. He returns to the Emirates on Monday, September 18, having successfully accomplished the longest Arab space mission in history and becoming the first Arab spacewalker.

Despite the long duration of his mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS), and subsequent challenges in adapting to Earth’s gravity after his return, the 42-year-old remains ready for his next.

“I am ready for the next mission.” This was the first thing AlNeyadi told a top official as they met after he landed on Earth earlier this month.

Taking to platform X, MBRSC Astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori, Astronauts Office Manager, revealed the next phases of the UAE Astronaut Programme after the completion of the longest Arab space mission in history.

In a video posted on Sunday, explaining the subsequent plan, he said, “Following the success of the UAE Mission 2 the next phase will focus on returning to the UAE and sharing this unique experience with different entities such as schools, universities and the people completed by my colleague Sultan AlNeyadi. One of the objectives of the UAE Astronaut Programme is to promise science, share knowledge and inspire future generations."

"In addition, my colleague Nora AlMatrooshi and Mohammad AlMulla are currently in Houston as part of NASA’s astronaut Candidate Class. They are training on different modules and systems of the International Space Station preparing for spacewalks and learning to operate robotic arms. The main goal of this is to prepare Emirati astronauts for future missions.”

Meanwhile, Sultan AlNeyadi upon his return to the home planet had also expressed his enthusiasm over undertaking the next mission. “I am ready for the next mission.” This was the first thing he told a top official as they met after his landing on Earth.

AlNeyadi’s statement reflects the bond and connection to space exploration that endures even after his active mission has ended.

He forever remains connected to that unique and elite group of individuals dubbed astronauts. He remains mission-ready.

Welcoming AlNeyadi to the UAE

Ahead of his return on Monday, preparations are underway in the country to celebrate the return of its ‘hero’, as AlNeyadi's voyage in space has filled the UAE with pride. The entire nation is eagerly anticipating his return, planning to welcome him with the honour he deserves.

Like UAE’s pioneering astronaut Hazza AlMansouri, the preparations for AlNeyadi entail meetings with national leaders, festive celebrations, and outreach activities to mark his triumphant return, particularly in the city of Al Ain, his hometown.

His efforts bring new opportunities for the UAE’s students, researchers, and scientists to explore and contribute to space science while cementing the country’s status as a hub of space exploration and technology.

What’s next?

Responding to media queries after AlNeyadi’s successful return to Earth, Adnan Alrais, Mission Manager of the UAE Astronaut Programme, earlier said: “With regards to Sultan AlNeyadi, he'll spend around 14 days here in Houston. After that, he’ll be back in the UAE for almost a week. Then again, he'll be back in Houston to conduct further science and experiments.”

Upon his return to the UAE, he will be ready to share his wealth of knowledge and be the ambassador for all things STEM. He will be part of community outreach programmes and talks at conferences as the astronaut inspires the next generation of space scientists and space travellers. His contributions to boosting the UAE’s science capabilities will be extremely valuable as he brings real-life applications of research conducted aboard the ISS.

Over the course of his mission, AlNeyadi has conducted over 200 experiments and studies that took about 585 hours. He has collaborated with 10 international space agencies and 25 top UAE and global universities for these. The experiments covered a range of topics including the cardiovascular system, back pain, protein crystallization growth, epigenetics, immune system, fluid dynamics, plant biology, human life sciences, material science, sleep analysis and radiation and advanced exploration technologies, and these will be instrumental in helping the scientific community, researchers, and students in the UAE and around the world.

His historic spacewalk has particularly generated a lot of interest among communities, which also exhibits the UAE’s dedication to global space leadership, inspiring youth, and economic diversification.

The 42-year-old is poised to talk about the personal and professional challenges that the half-year mission entailed.

The UAE's unwavering dedication through his mission, to space research and innovation will further be demonstrated through other outreach initiatives, roadshows and educational programs to be held in the country, all aimed at ensuring the long-term success of its burgeoning space industry.

Inspiring others

Like AlNeyadi, Emirati astronauts Nora AlMatrooshi and Mohammad AlMulla, who are part of Nasa’s 2021 astronaut candidate class training programme, are also on track with their extensive training regimen, with both undergoing spacewalk training at NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

A key role of AlNeyadi will also be to mentor the new crop of astronauts as he shares his valuable knowledge about life in space.

After his weeklong stint in the UAE, he will be returning to the United States for further debriefing and assessing the results of the experiments conducted onboard the ISS.


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