How astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi will address UAE classrooms from space

Besides conducting dozens of experiments in orbit, Sultan AlNeyadi will be making time for students in weekly Q and As


Sahim Salim

Published: Sun 5 Mar 2023, 6:22 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Mar 2023, 6:32 AM

By now, UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi would have settled in at his new home over 400km above Earth: The International Space Station (ISS). The last official update about AlNeyadi and his Crew-6 mates was posted by Nasa, which said that the new arrivals would undergo a safety briefing and orientation aboard the orbital outpost, after which they would catch some sleep.

Among the first public engagements for Crew-6 is an in-flight event with AlNeyadi. This is scheduled to happen at 4.50pm (UAE time) on March 7, according to the Nasa website.

In 2019, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, had interacted with astronaut Hazza AlMansoori on his second day on the ISS. AlMansoori was the first Emirati astronaut to have gone to the space station, where he spent eight days.


During the Earth-to-space conversation, Sheikh Mohammed had assured AlMansoori that even though the latter is the first Emirati to venture to space, “a generation of young citizens will follow in your footsteps and become space scientists and technology pioneers”.

AlNeyadi’s six-month stay on the ISS — the longest Arab space mission in history — is a fulfilment of that assurance.

Weekly interactions with students

A mission specialist when he blasted off from Earth, AlNeyadi became a flight engineer upon boarding the station. Crew-6 is part of Expedition 68/69 to the ISS. An 'expedition' refers to the crew that is occupying the space station and using it for research and testing. They are sequentially numbered, starting from one and increasing with each subsequent expedition.

Along with Nasa astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, AlNeyadi will carry out scientific research to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit.

During the six months that AlNeyadi will be spending on the ISS, two Dubai entities will produce a weekly broadcast with interviews, engaging facts, competitions, activities, and opportunities for all students in the UAE to ask the astronaut questions. The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) aims to reach 20,000 students and children through the initiative, “which is set to become a landmark in interactive education, bringing the groundbreaking and exciting work of the UAE's space mission to life”.

The MBRSC has partnered with the Emirates Literature Foundation to launch the educational initiative called Elf in Space. There will be 13 live calls and 10 ham radio interactions throughout the six months.

Experiments aboard ISS

AlNeyadi will collaborate with Nasa, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) to conduct 19 scientific studies on cardiovascular and immune system health, back pain, technical demonstrations, epigenetics, fluid science, plant biology, material science, sleep analysis, and radiation.

Crew-6’s experiments include the study of materials burning in microgravity, tissue chip research on heart, brain, cartilage functions, and an investigation to collect microbial samples from the exterior of the space station.

Expedition 68/69 will also potentially continue to install the final pieces of iROSA, the roll-out solar arrays on the International Space Station.

The MBRSC is funding two research projects from the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU). The first project will assess how the microgravity environment of spaceflight affects cardio-postural interactions, while the second will investigate dental/oral cells in a simulated microgravity environment on Earth.

“These projects will engage students and researchers, enabling the development and qualification of future generations of scientists,” the centre said.


Sahim Salim

Published: Sun 5 Mar 2023, 6:22 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Mar 2023, 6:32 AM

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