Watch: UAE's Sultan AlNeyadi welcomes Saudi astronauts to outer space with dates, water

Sultan AlNeyadi was seen taking photographs of the incoming crew and giving them a grand tour of the orbital outpost


Sahim Salim

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Published: Mon 22 May 2023, 5:44 PM

Last updated: Tue 23 May 2023, 12:04 AM

Tears, laughter and conversations in Arabic from outer space over a couple of dates marked the arrival of two Saudi astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday evening.

Rayyanah, who is the first Arab female astronaut, was in tears as she received her coveted astronaut pin. Ali and Rayyanah became the 599th and 600th astronauts, respectively, as they stepped into the ISS.

The Ax-2 crew members were pinned with the ‘Universal Astronaut Insignia’, which represents all space travellers.

During the welcome ceremony, the two Saudis addressed the world in Arabic. “Greetings from outer space,” said Rayyanah. “I represent everyone from my country and region. I am very happy to represent the dreams and hopes of everyone back home.”

Ali urged his fellow Saudis to dream big as the country’s leadership will help them achieve it. “I am really excited to work with you all. I am eager to learn from your expertise,” he told his crewmates.

Rayyanah and Ali are part of Axiom Mission 2 that also includes commander Peggy Whitson and pilot John Shoffner. Their SpaceX Dragon spacecraft docked at the ISS at 5.12pm UAE time. This is the second mission with an entirely private crew to arrive at the orbiting laboratory.

The four astronauts travelled 16 hours to reach their destination, where they will spend eight days.

With their arrival, the ISS has become truly international with 11 astronauts and cosmonauts, including three Arabs onboard for the first time.

AlNeyadi was seen taking photographs of the incoming crew and giving them a grand tour of the orbital outpost. He then treated them to some water and dates.

The astronauts are expected to depart the space station on May 30, “pending weather, for a return to Earth and splashdown at a landing site off the coast of Florida”, according to Nasa.

During their time on the orbiting laboratory, the crew will conduct over 20 science and technology experiments in areas such as human physiology, physical sciences, and STEAM. These will help expand knowledge to benefit life on Earth in areas like healthcare, materials and technology development, and enable industrial advances.

3 Arabs in space

The UAE was buzzing with excitement as three Arabs cruised 400km above Earth, united in their space mission.

Sara Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology, said the “extraordinary endeavour” demonstrates Saudi Arabia’s dedication to scientific advancement and “emphasises the significant role of space exploration for our region and the world”.

“May their mission be filled with triumph, groundbreaking discoveries, and a sense of unity,” she posted on Twitter.

Salem Humaid AlMarri, director-general of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), congratulated the Saudi Space Commission, and the entire nation, on the successful docking of their astronauts at the ISS.

“We extend our best wishes to Astronaut Ali Alqarni and Astronaut Rayyanah Barnawi as they embark on this mission to the ISS. This achievement serves as a notable milestone for Saudi Arabia and marks a pivotal moment in history as it unites three Arab astronauts in space for the first time, including Astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi. The event serves as a powerful inspiration to the global space community, highlighting the profound impact of diversity, innovation, and international cooperation,” he said.


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