Watch: UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi recaps 6-month space journey in emotional video

We need to go to the Moon: This was among the first things he said on landing back on Earth

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Sahim Salim

Published: Sun 17 Sep 2023, 10:36 PM

Last updated: Mon 18 Sep 2023, 7:06 AM

Hours after landing back on Earth, UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi had barely adjusted to gravity when he met a top space official and told him: "We need to go to the Moon."

This was just after the astronaut got off the plane in Houston following their splashdown off the coast of Florida on September 4. "This is our goal as Emirati astronauts – to ensure the continuity of space missions, whether to the International Space Station (ISS) or the Moon. We go to space with the goal of promoting science and exploration."

This was among the anecdotes AlNeyadi shared on Sunday in a video he posted ahead of his highly anticipated homecoming to the UAE. The 42-year-old will return to a hero's welcome this evening after successfully completing the longest Arab space mission and becoming the first spacewalker from the region.

AlNeyadi offered some rare insights into living on the ISS for half a year, bonding with his crewmates, performing experiments and feeling the pressure of gravity while returning to Earth. Scroll down for video:

Fun with gravity

Among the funniest anecdotes he shared in the video was one involving adjusting to gravity on Earth.

"When I used to get dressed in space, I would just toss the clothes in front of me; they would float, and I would wear them. I unintentionally attempted to do the same thing on Earth. When putting on my shirt, I threw it in front of me, but, of course, it fell on the ground," he said with a laugh.

He spoke of the "strange" feeling when you come back from an environment where everything floats in the absence of gravity.

Experiencing the force of 4Gs

AlNeyadi recalled his 17-hour journey back to Earth from the ISS in a SpaceX Dragon capsule.

"Despite having the same duration as a flight from Houston to Dubai, our journey was quick. We had the chance to grab a bite and to sleep a little. As we approached the final phase, I remember my crewmate Woody Hoburg saying this would be our last orbit around Earth.

"The spacecraft was moving so fast that the thrusters had to slow it down. After that, we started feeling the effect of gravity again. The pressure was so strong that it felt like there was a fire. Feeling fear… is normal in situations like these as there are loud sounds and heat inside the spacecraft."

Bonding with his crewmates

Such was the bond he shared with his Crew-6 mates – Nasa astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev – that after splashdown, he told them: "If I get another opportunity to go to space, I wouldn't choose anyone else but you."

He said those on the ISS were like one family working towards a common goal. "We used to work as brothers … We used to dine together, watch movies, play games and do challenges. Saying goodbye to them was one of the most difficult things I have had to do."

Limitless ambitions

Emiratis' ambitions have no limits, remarked AlNeyadi. He recalled visiting His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, along with the first UAE astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori.

"We had not gone to space then. One of the people at the gathering told Sheikh Mohammed that we had made it as astronauts, but the UAE Vice-President said we had not achieved our goals.

"I found myself wondering what His Highness was thinking about. As time passed, it became clear that he was determined to achieve even greater feats such as reaching the Moon and Mars."

AlNeyadi said the UAE was fortunate to have wise leadership. "We consider our leaders as role models."


Dubbed #SultanHomecoming, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) will stream AlNeyadi's return to the UAE live from 5.30pm.

A Khaleej Times team will be on the ground to give a blow-by-blow account of his triumphant homecoming on its digital and social media platforms.


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