Video: After 6 months of not walking on his feet, UAE's Sultan AlNeyadi gets ready for life on Earth

Floating around in microgravity may look fun but for astronauts, life in space is challenging, even dangerous


Angel Tesorero

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Reuters file photo
Reuters file photo

Published: Thu 17 Aug 2023, 3:46 PM

Last updated: Thu 17 Aug 2023, 6:22 PM

UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi is set to return home in a fortnight from the International Space Station (ISS) — his abode for almost six months.

From the orbital station, he has been sharing an immersive experience, answering questions about life in space. In a video he shared on Thursday on X (formerly Twitter), AlNeyadi explained how space travel affects humans, physically and psychologically, and what it would take to adjust to life back on Earth.

Space is a completely different environment than Earth, said first Arab astronaut on a long-duration space mission.

He said in Arabic: “Here, we don’t walk with our feet but use our hands when moving from one place to another. This does not fully utilise the muscles of our body, which may lead to muscle atrophy.”

“Also, the lack of pressure on our bones and the lower part of the body may cause osteoporosis (which can lead to a decrease in bone strength and increase the risk of broken bones or fractures),” he added.

AlNeyadi noted: “This (living in microgravity) is a matter of concern on long mission such as the six-month duration we are undertaking.”

Exercise regimen

The situation, however, is remedied by doing daily exercises. “We train daily for two hours to avoid these health problems such as muscle atrophy, osteoporosis and loss of physical mass,” AlNeyadi continued.

Back in March, a week after he and his Crew-6 colleagues Nasa astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev – docked on the ISS on March 3, AlNeyadi posted a photo of himself running on one of the two treadmills aboard the ISS.

He captioned it: “On Earth, exercising is important. In space, it's vital. Aboard the International Space Station, we exercise for 2.5 hours every day to avoid muscle atrophy and bone loss triggered by microgravity.”

Psychological challenge

Another aspect that AlNeyadi shed light on is the psychological challenge astronauts like him may face. He said: “It can occur if a person lives in isolation. (But) on the ISS, we are able to communicate with our family and friends on Earth.”

“We also work here as a crew and we are currently seven people on board (AlNeyadi, Bowen, Hoburg, Fedyaev, Frank Rubio, Dmitri Petelin and Sergey Prokopyev). This further softens the psychological impact,” AlNeyadi noted.

However, if in the future, an astronaut is sent to Mars, the scenario would be different, he said.

"A message from Earth would need at least 20 minutes to reach Mars. If there is a person or a friend of yours on Mars, for example, and you need to say to him ‘Peace be upon you’, this message will take about 20 minutes. The response also may take another 20 minutes and this may cause a kind of isolation and some psychological impact on the astronaut," he explained.

Return to Earth

AlNeyadi earlier said in a separate message from ISS that it will take at least two weeks of training to readjust to life on Earth.

He noted: “After spending six months in space, when we return, we must adapt to walking and life in general. Typically, it takes about two weeks of training to readjust to life on Earth. During this time, we will conduct scientific experiments and physical exercises to return to a normal state.”


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