I never gave up on my dream to be an astronaut: Sultan AlNeyadi

The first Arab astronaut to embark on a long-haul ISS mission shared his dreams during an earlier interview with KT



by

Nandini Sircar

Published: Tue 26 Jul 2022, 3:30 PM

Last updated: Tue 26 Jul 2022, 4:17 PM

Sultan AlNeyadi, the first Arab astronaut to be selected to spend six months on the International Space Station (ISS) said he always harboured a dream to be an astronaut. However, in his youth he never imagined his dream would come true as at that time the UAE did not have any presence in space.

Although, there was nothing on the horizon, he never abandoned his dream.

During an earlier interview, the Emirati who has a PhD in Information Technology (Data Leak Age Prevention) from Australia, and practices Jiu jitsu had said: “I never let go of my dream of being an astronaut. In 2017, I took my daughter to the first science event run by Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) and at that time I thought in 15 or 20 years my daughter would be the first female astronaut from the UAE. Only one month after that Sheikh Mohammad announced that the first open selection for all Emiratis to apply for the pioneering batch of the UAE astronaut corps. I was so elated, and I told my daughter we’ll be going to space.”

In 2017 AlNeyadi, along with his colleague, astronaut Hazzaa Al Mansouri, became the pioneers of the first batch of the UAE Astronaut Programme. He was selected from over 4,000 candidates, following a series of mental and physical tests in the UAE and abroad.

Training at Nasa's Johnson Space Center

Speaking to Khaleej Times from Houston in April 2021, on a video call, in the midst of his training at the Nasa’s Johnson Space Centre, he said: “We have done a lot of training… doing all the daily activities from maintenance, responding to emergencies, and establishing capabilities to run all the experiments. We are on the verge of finishing an important training — simulating weightlessness in space. It’s physically, a very demanding activity where we spend approximately six hours every time in water. So, it’s very challenging and we have progressed well on that front.”

ALSO READ:

“We recently started our T30 training where we will be flying T30 jets which is new for me, but is probably usual for Hazzaa. So, we have a lot of activities and a very busy schedule.”

Difference in international trainings

Shedding light on the difference between their two training programmes -- one that they underwent in 2018 at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Moscow, Russia and the one at NASA in 2021, AlNeyadi explained: “In Russia the training that we did was basically a preparation for a short mission which was the eight days that Hazza spent in space. So, we trained on the vehicle that took him to space which is the Russian Soyuz. Then we trained on the ISS mock-up. We had a trip to Germany to work on the Columbus module as well. Our training involved a lot of scientific experiments to spend those eight days in space.”

“However, when it comes to the current training… it is a aimed at being able to operate the (ISS) station. This will allow us to spend not just eight days, but a moderate length of time in space — up to six months or a year. This is the biggest difference between the two trainings”, he added.

He was awarded the Nasa astronaut silver pin in May 2022 along with his colleague Hazzaa (received gold pin) indicating the readiness for missions to the ISS and beyond.

The silver pins are awarded to those who have completed their training and are yet to fly to space.

AlNeyadi underwent intensive training for five years for long-term human space flights

41-year-old, AlNeyadi has undergone comprehensive training for five years for long-term human space flights.

He along with his colleague Al-Mansoori, undertook an array of exercises, specially tailored to suit the needs of the mission.

AlNeyadi commenced his training at the “Yuri Gagarin” Cosmonaut Training Center in the Star City in Moscow in 2018.

He also received training in Houston, Texas, and Cologne in Germany, as part of partnership agreements with major space agencies, namely NASA, the European Agency (ESA) and Japan (JAXA).

He then underwent a nearly 20-month training in all units of the ISS, to be trained on using the devices and equipment inside it, as well as training on emergency situations, which may occur on board the orbiting laboratory.

This includes tricky situations like fire, low pressure, and ammonia gas leakage.

He also underwent survival training in the event of an emergency landing of the capsule in a cold forest.

AlNeyadi also trained in a space suit that weighs up to 10 kilograms and how to wear it in a zero-gravity environment.

He completed the training in the neutral buoyancy laboratory, and an evaluation on the use of the EMU spacewalk suit and the maintenance of the ISS.

He learnt the rescue of astronauts in emergency ICR.

He completed theoretical and practical training on the T-38 plane, among others.

Meanwhile, members of the MBRSC who are proud of his accomplishment today have been sending in congratulatory messages:

Salem Humaid AlMarri, Director General, MBRSC, asserted that “astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi underwent intensive training that led him to receiving the NASA astronaut’s pin. He added: “Sultan’s admirable performance has earned him the honour of representing the UAE in this historic mission.”

He added, "Sultan's completion of the first long-duration Arab astronaut mission is a critical step toward realising the National Space Programme. With this mission, the UAE will become the 11th country globally to conduct a long-duration mission aboard the International Space Station, allowing us to complete long-term experiments and obtain valuable results."

Hamad Obaid AlMansoori, Chairman of MBRSC, stated that the UAE National Space Programme is based on our wise leadership's pioneering vision of the future and its support for the space sector. This support strengthened the UAE's regional and global position in space exploration.

He added, "Sultan AlNeyadi’s mission will be a milestone in Arab human spaceflight missions. Our objective has expanded beyond reaching space, and our goal is to provide ample knowledge that will ensure a more sustainable presence of humans in space."


More news from UAE