From mission specialist to flight engineer: AlNeyadi's role on ISS

Here is all you need to know about astronaut's training, what he will do on ISS, and the experiments he will conduct


SM Ayaz Zakir

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This handout screen grab courtesy of Nasa TV shows Mission Specialist Sultan AlNeyadi and other members of Crew-6 aboard the ISS. — Courtesy: Nasa
This handout screen grab courtesy of Nasa TV shows Mission Specialist Sultan AlNeyadi and other members of Crew-6 aboard the ISS. — Courtesy: Nasa

Published: Sat 4 Mar 2023, 4:18 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Mar 2023, 4:19 PM

The UAE's 'Sultan of Space' has begun his long-duration space mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS) after a well-deserved rest.

Sultan AlNeyadi has been training for years for this moment and it is now time for him to put all that hard work into action as he gears up for experiments in space and testing the limits of the human body.

Training for the mission

AlNeyadi began his training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre at Star City in Moscow in September 2018 and received comprehensive training on all sections and units of the ISS, including how to operate its devices and equipment, how to correct low pressure and prevent ammonia leaks inside the station, and also how to extinguish a fire.

He earned his stripes in the freezing forests of Russia and other countries of Europe, where he learnt to deal with extreme temperatures while performing daily tasks such as preparing food. He also learnt how to operate a camera to document events and take pictures of earth from space, while communicating with ground stations. Along with the first Emirati astronaut, Hazza AlMansouri, the two took part in more than 90 courses. The space stars logged in 1,400 training hours for UAE Mission 1 in September 2019, where AlMansoori served as the primary crew member, while AlNeyadi was the backup.

UAE astronauts Hazzaa AlMansoori and Sultan AlNeyadi in Routine Ops FS training.
UAE astronauts Hazzaa AlMansoori and Sultan AlNeyadi in Routine Ops FS training.

The duo continued their training at Nasa's Johnson Space Centre’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) to familiarise themselves with the microgravity experienced during space flights and aboard the ISS. After months of rigorous training, AlNeyadi took the ISS exam to qualify as a crew and operator onboard the station.

Mission Crew Specialist - Dragon flight

As a part of Crew-6, AlNeyadi has been handed over responsibilities as a mission crew specialist on the Dragon flight, where he undertook training sessions at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. Mission specialists are trained to have primary responsibility during a mission for operating shuttle or space station systems and carrying out the payload and experimental activities. They also perform extravehicular activities (space walks) if required.

Flight engineer for Expedition 69 - ISS

After a long duration stay of six months, NASA’s Crew-5 is scheduled to return to Earth later this month. Expedition 68 involving Crew-5 included research investigations focused on biology, earth science, human research, physical sciences, and technology development, providing the foundation for continuing human spaceflight beyond low earth orbit to the Moon and Mars.

After the conclusion of expedition 68, AlNeyadi will be handed over the duties and undertaking the responsibilities of the flight engineer for Expedition 69 aboard the ISS and a vital crew in ensuring the overall mission’s success. The present flight engineer of Expedition 68 is NASA astronaut Frank Rubio.

Handover to Crew-6

A handover is a period between the start of one space station crew’s time on the station and the end of another crew’s time. In this instance Crew-5 will do a handover to Crew-6 in the coming four days before returning to Earth.

Al Neyadi’s experiments

The Crew-6 will conduct 250 experiments during their six-month mission to the ISS. AlNeyadi, will conduct at least 20 of those experiments besides accomplishing other tasks and maintenance work.

Earlier, in February, AlNeyadi had said that the astronauts are subjects themselves for the experiments. “We’ll have a lot of sensors on us when we do experiments. These machines log our sleep, vascular activities, breathing, etc. There is radiation in space and the loosening of muscles. How do we control (or mitigate) these things are also part of our medical experiments.”

All members of Crew-6, including AlNeyadi, Nasa mission commander Stephen Bowen, Nasa pilot Warren Hoburg and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, will help Nasa prepare for crewed missions to the Moon and future long-duration space explorations.

ISS’s Expedition 69 will entail several experiments related to moon research. They will also conduct experiments on fluidics (study of fluid dynamics in space), test materials, and how they burn in space and react in microgravity and different atmospheres. The astronauts will also study heart tissue beating in space, which can lead to cutting-edge technology in the 3D printing of human organs.


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