In pictures: Top 10 moments of UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi's historic 6 months in space

With the Emirati astronaut making his return to Earth, take a trip down memory with some of the best moments that had us smiling

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Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Mon 4 Sep 2023, 6:18 PM

Last updated: Mon 4 Sep 2023, 9:07 PM

As Sultan AlNeyadi splashed down off the coast of Florida, an entire nation erupted in joy over a space mission that may have seemed impossible just a decade ago.

After over six months at the International Space Station (ISS), AlNeyadi returned a hero. As UAE leaders, students and residents cheered for him, here are the top 10 moments of the astronaut during his mission.

1. Suhail in microgravity

On March 2, just after blast-off, Sultan AlNeyadi introduced the "fifth member" of Crew-6, Suhail. The blue and white plushie had donned the official Crew-6 uniform and was the indicator of microgravity aboard the Dragon spacecraft when the team blasted off to the ISS.

Suhail was also present when AlNeyadi conducted his first public call from space and spoke to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. During the five-minute video call, AlNeyadi demonstrated Suhail floating inside the ISS and said that he had adapted to life in space.

2. Call from space

One of the most keenly awaited highlights of AlNeyadi’s mission was the ‘Call from Space’ series. He conducted 25 calls during which he interacted with UAE leaders, students, media representatives and other residents. He patiently answered questions and shared information.

However, the most heartwarming moments of those was when he had a surprised interaction with his sons Rashid and Abdulla. When Rashid asked him what he will bring him from space, AlNeyadi jokingly asked if he wanted his secrets to be revealed live and promised to bring him back the plushie Suhail.

Meanwhile, when Abdulla asked what he loves the most about Earth, AlNeyadi replied “You are what I love the most on earth,” before adding that he enjoyed the microgravity in space.

3. Spacewalk

AlNeyadi created history as the first ever Arab astronaut to perform a spacewalk. During a walk that lasted just over 7 hours, he conducted several preparatory tasks involving routing power cables. Once it was completed, a NASA representative commended him by saying ‘Sultan that was impressive, you have surgeon’s hands.’ He shared a stunning time-lapse video of the historic achievement

4. Capturing the world

During his 186 days in space, AlNeyadi captured through his spectacular photographs everything from Paris to Pakistan, from the Himalayas to Typhoon Khanum and of course his “beloved UAE”.

His colleague, Hazza Al Mansouri recently revealed that AlNeyadi had quite an eye for photography and that NASA themselves used several of his photographs. While several of his photos — whether it was of India, Jerusalem or Japan — were stunning, the one Team KT loved the most was this beautiful image of Dubai.

5. Life aboard the ISS

AlNeyadi managed to share several snippets of life aboard the ISS, which helped everyone understand and appreciate the challenges astronauts face better.

In one post, he revealed that they must exercise for 2.5 hours every day to avoid muscle atrophy and bone loss triggered by microgravity! He also posted videos of himself drinking coffee, having UAE-made honey on a piece of toast and the difficulties of drinking water. A fun video he shared showed how the astronauts play games in zero gravity.

6. Experiments he conducted

Over 200 experiments were conducted by the astronaut during his stay. From growing plants to recycling water to monitoring heart health, AlNeyadi contributed significantly to experiments that will impact humanity as a whole.

Here is a photo he shared about the ‘Dreams’ experiment that studies the sleep patterns of astronauts and the effects of microgravity on brain activity while sleeping.

7. Sharing Ramadan moon, Eid celebrations

Less than a month after he arrived at the ISS, the world observed the beginning of Ramadan. He shared a stunning beautiful night time scenery on the occasion. However, the most endearing video was when both he and Suhail donned kanduras on the occasion of Eid Al Adha.

8. Special moments

AlNeyadi observed and celebrated several special moments while aboard the ISS.

On his birthday, he received a maple muffin top cake from the US crew, a cinnamon bun with yoghurt and dry fruits from the Russian crew.

A keen Jiu Jitsu practitioner, he also became the first to perform martial arts in space. On International Yoga Day, he shared a photo of him doing yoga on the ISS.

He also paid tribute to UAE leaders and shared photos of UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai from space.

One of the most significant moments for him was when he was awarded the golden pin by NASA. The Dubai Media Office revealed that the golden astronaut pins are conferred on those who join 'elite astronaut ranks'.

9. Launching a book

In a world first, AlNeyadi launched a new children's book written by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai in space. An e-copy of the book — The Journey From The Desert To The Stars — made its way to the ISS where AlNeyadi shared a snippet of it on a video he shared on social media.

10. Sliding back on to Earth

The minute when AlNeyadi alighted from the Dragon spacecraft was significant as an entire nation erupted in cheers and applause.

At the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC), where the 17-hour travel of the spacecraft was being keenly monitored, senior officials started clapping. Meanwhile, in schools around the country, many students watched with bated breath as their hero slid back to earth, experiencing gravity after 186 days. Here is a screen grab of that moment


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