UAE astronaut creates history: Sultan AlNeyadi's spacewalk a big stride for the Arab world

Nasa flight engineers Frank Rubio and Woody Hoburg, who were also aboard the ISS, assisted him in suiting up

By Angel Tesorero, Nandini Sircar

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Published: Sat 29 Apr 2023, 2:07 AM

Last updated: Sat 29 Apr 2023, 7:18 AM

With the UAE flag and the logo ‘Impossible is Possible’ emblazoned on his spacesuit sleeve, Emirati astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi has taken the big stride for Arab world’s space exploration by accomplishing the first spacewalk for an Arab astronaut outside the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday.

AlNeyadi and veteran Nasa astronaut Stephen Bowen started their over six-hour spacewalk at 5.11pm (UAE time). Nasa flight engineers Frank Rubio and Woody Hoburg, who were also aboard the ISS, assisted them in suiting up. Hoburg said: “Sultan, congratulations, you are creating history today.”

UAE astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori, the first Emirati who went to space in 2019, meanwhile, served as increment lead of Expedition 69. He monitored the mission from Nasa Johnson Space Centre in Houston. The Emirati team at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) were also busy following all the action from ISS.

Things moved smoothly for the two astronauts as they opened the hatch and made the eventual egress. First to come out of ISS’s Joint Quest Airlock was Bowen, who served as the lead spacewalker on his eight spacewalk. He wore a spacesuit with red stripes to distinguish him from AlNeyadi, who made the first step out of the ISS at 5.39pm (UAE time).

After securing their body tethers, the two astronauts moved to relocate the Articulating Portable Foot Restraint (APFR), a platform used by astronauts while conducting the spacewalk and also fixed the cables.

The Nasa team in Houston can be heard during the live broadcast praising AlNeyadi for his good work. "That was impressive, Sultan. You have a surgeon's hands,” the ground controller told the Emirati astronaut.

There was constant communication between Nasa ground controller and the two astronauts. Every 90 minutes, AlNeyadi and Bowen were also asked to check their gloves and helmet absorption pad (HAP) to make sure that there was no water inside their helmets or tears in the gloves.


The ground teams monitored the astronauts’ oxygen level, water for cooling, battery power and carbon dioxide removal.

Al Neyadi and Bowen smoothly completed the first task of preparing a part of the ISS for a future solar array installation.

They were, however, unable to accomplish the second task of removing an old part of Radio Frequency Group, after they hit a snag in removing the bolts attached to the ISS antenna. The two astronauts applied pressure, and were even instructed to use a hammer but the they were still unable to take it out.

Nasa then instructed them to abandon the task of retrieving the unit that was supposed to be brought back into the station and sent back to Earth for refurbishment.

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