UAE astronaut's space mission to ISS: Who is the 'fifth crew member' Sultan AlNeyadi took along on Crew-6 flight?

The Emirati 'najmonaut' made a surprise introduction after the rocket successfully achieved liftoff

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File photo

By Angel Tesorero

Published: Thu 2 Mar 2023, 4:56 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Mar 2023, 5:25 PM

Aside from photos of his family, Sultan AlNeyadi has brought with him Suhail, the blue and white astro-stuffed toy that he introduced as the fifth member of Nasa SpaceX Crew-6 on Thursday.

While aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour en route to the International Space Station (ISS), AlNeyadi said Suhail is making its second trip to the orbiting space laboratory. The blue and white astro-stuffed toy was first brought by Hazzaa AlMansoori to the ISS during his eight-day space mission in September 2019.

Suhail is the Arabic name for brightest star in the Southern Hemisphere called Canopus. The star rises as August ends, officially signalling the end of summer in the Arabian Peninsula.

AlNeyadi has also packed dates. He said earlier: “I love dates. I'm going to take dates, and I’m going to share this with everybody, especially during Ramadan. This is a request from the commander and I cannot say no to my (mission) commander (Stephen Bowen).

Martial arts on ISS

The Emirati astronaut, who is the first Arab to go on a long-duration space mission, has previously said that he would wear his Jiu-jitsu kimono and practice martial arts on ISS to keep his body in shape.

To mitigate the loss of muscle and bone mass in the human body in microgravity (aboard ISS), astronauts do extra physical activities and work out at least two hours a day. AlNeyadi, who has been training jiu-jitsu for almost a decade, said it has kept him in top form during his hectic training.

Tintin rockets

AlNeyadi is carrying some family photos, a few of his children’s toys, his university T-shirt, and Tintin rockets, perhaps as a homage to his favourite pastime when he was a kid. The astronaut has earlier revealed that he was inspired to become a space explorer after watching cartoons and animated heroes going to other planets.

Speaking to Khaleej Times back in January, AlNeyadi said: “We can carry a few bags to space with personal items. So, I'm taking some family photos. This is important. I'm taking some toys from my kids; I still haven't told them yet. I'm taking some university T shirts again. I haven't told my university people either.”

“I want to keep that connection with people on Earth by using these items. I will also take small Tintin rockets as personal items. I am also specifically taking a jiu-jitsu kimono,” he added.


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