‘That’s my boy’: Creator of UAE astronaut plushie Suhail shares pride in seeing him float in space

“I feel proud and happy,” he said in an interview with Khaleej Times

By Sahim Salim, Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Sat 11 Mar 2023, 10:31 AM

Last updated: Sat 11 Mar 2023, 4:51 PM

When Sultan AlNeyadi introduced the "fifth member" of Crew-6 on March 2, soon after blast-off, the world saw a brand-new iteration of the astronaut stuffed toy 'Suhail'. This time the blue and white plushie had donned the official Crew-6 uniform.

"Allow me to introduce you to the fifth crew member. His name is Suhail, and it is the Arabic name for the star Canopus," Dr Al Neyadi said after lift-off.

At this point, down on earth inside the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC), one young Emirati man’s chest swelled with pride, and he turned to his colleagues to say, “That is my boy.”

Saeed Al Emadi, the designer of the plushie 'Suhail', said it was a moment of great pride to watch his toy float in space as an indicator of zero gravity.

“I feel I am proud and happy,” he said in an interview with Khaleej Times. “Sultan had told me that Crew 6 approved the design and that they would reveal it during the flight. When I saw it during the launch, I told my colleagues, that is my boy, that is my kid.”


It has been a tradition since 1961 when Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, took a dog plushie with him on the flight to have a toy on board a space flight. Since then, astronauts have taken various plushies including that of a baby dragon, Toy Story plushie Buzz Lightyear, Frozen toy Olaf, a baby Yoda and even a raccoon.

“It is a ritual,” said Saeed. Moreover, it is also an indicator to the strapped in astronauts when deceleration has stopped, and the zero gravity or weightlessness has begun.

This is not the first time Suhail has gone into space. When Hazza Al Mansouri became the first Emirati to travel to space, the plushie went with him on his rocket. At the time it wore a different uniform. The plushie that Hazza took with him is thought to be still with the astronaut, with Saeed, indicating that it could be soon exhibited in a museum or so.


The idea of a plushie began as soon as Hazza’s flight was confirmed. “In 2019, when Hazza Al Mansouri had his first flight, we had the idea to have a mascot,” said Saeed.

“I wanted it to have an astronaut look but still a fictional character that came from another planet or star. I did some drawings and sketches and our team internally voted on the final look. I went through about five to six drafts before we chose the look. I think I really like the last upgrade with the Crew-6 uniforms.”

The plushie was named through a poll on social media. “We asked the public what to name the toy and Suhail was one of the most common names we got,” he said.

“In our region, our ancestors used to look for Suhail as a sign of the end of hot weather. It was a sign for good news and brought hope to people in the region.”

According to Saeed, there has is an increased demand for the plushie, which is available on the MBRSC website, with many youngsters wanting the toy. “After Sultan and Hazza’s flights, many kids are asking for it,” he said. “The purpose is to encourage these children to be future astronauts and space engineers. Suhail is a symbol of hope, a symbol of supporting astronauts.”

Asked if there were plans to give Suhail some friends in the future, Saeed said he already had four friends. “They are our four astronauts – Hazza, Sultan, Nora and Mohammed,” he said. “Maybe with the upcoming missions we might probably upgrade to have two toys or so but for now, these four friends are more than enough for him.”


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