'It was a rollercoaster ride to space', says UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi to students in Dubai

The trip to ISS is equivalent to 120 times the speed of Ferrari World Abu Dhabi rollercoaster

By Angel Tesorero

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KT photos/Shihab
KT photos/Shihab

Published: Tue 7 Mar 2023, 5:14 PM

Last updated: Thu 9 Mar 2023, 9:08 PM

‘The trip to space was like a really, really fast rollercoaster ride,’ pioneering Emirati astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi candidly shared with students from Jumeirah College Dubai, as he took a break from his work aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday.

AlNeyadi also gamely shared what he had for breakfast that day; how he has been sleeping; what he misses most; how he communicates with his family; what keeps him entertained during his free time, and more, during the 10-minute ham radio call coordinated by ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station).


The conversation kicked off with AlNeyadi describing the experience during lift-off on March 2, when he and his Crew-6 colleagues were sent to space by a Falcon 9 rocket.

Blast off was like taking a really, really fast rollercoaster ride, AlNeyadi said. To put it into perspective, the world’s fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, can travel 52 metres upward in just 4.9 seconds or 240 km/h. Compare it with launching a rocket which, according to Nasa, needs to speed up to at least 28,646 km/h and fly above most of the atmosphere, in a curved path around Earth. What AlNeyadi experienced during lift-off was like 120 times the speed of riding Ferrari World’s Formula Rossa.


“We train in mock-ups that simulate the inside of the [rocket] capsule. And we also get training to experience G-load as well. But being in space is totally different; there’s a continuous feeling of weightlessness. I wish everyone could try this, but unfortunately, as far as I know, the closest you can get to a rocket launch is going on a really fast rollercoaster,” AlNeyadi explained.

Scrambled eggs and coffee

In another light moment, AlNeyadi talked about what astronauts like him eat in space. He said he had scrambled eggs and coffee for breakfast on Tuesday.

Grade 9 student Darya Vaziri who asked the question was amazed with the answer and told Khaleej Times: “I thought they (astronauts) only eat freeze-dried food, but they have the same food like we have here on Earth.

Another student asked AlNeyadi how he keeps himself entertained and he answered: “For me the biggest entertainment is floating. It is amazing.”

Strap before you sleep

Although getting a sleep has not posed a problem for AlNeyadi, he said it is important to strap yourself first before closing your eyes so you will not float around.

Astronauts sleep in special sleep bags secured to their crew quarters. Because of microgravity, they practically sleep facing any direction – sideways, upwards or downwards. “You just close your eyes and sleep,” said AlNeyadi.

He added he misses his family but communications with them is constant

Mission in space

AlNeyadi was also asked what he is doing on board the ISS. As a flight engineer, his responsibility is to help ensure the overall success of the mission, including conducting various scientific experiments as part of ISS and those identified by UAE universities.

Earlier, the Mohammed bin Rashid Centre said AlNeyadi will study the effects of microgravity on human posture, as well as experiments on immunity and cardiovascular system, sleep analysis, back pain, fluidics and other physical demonstration.

Robert Kesterton, acting principal at Jumeirah College, said the students were enthralled with Al Neyadi’s mission, noting: “He will serve as an inspiration to fuel the aspirations of Jumeirah College students, and we are honoured that he agreed to take questions from our students while on such a historic mission.”

KT photo/Shihab
KT photo/Shihab

Science teacher Christopher Greenfield, who coordinated the radio call with ARISS, added: “Our students are fascinated with space exploration and having the opportunity to speak with astronauts inspires them to ask truly thought-provoking questions.” He added their next science project includes sending an emblem of their school logo to the outer edge of space or 100km above Earth.

‘Stay healthy’

Grade 8 student Omar Morsi, 13, said listening to AlNeyadi talking to them from space will live with him forever. “I also want to become an astronaut someday,” he added.

Derin Joelle Rall, 12, meanwhile, had an endearing message for AlNeyadi, who will stay on ISS for the next six months. The Grade 7 student said: “Be strong and stay healthy.”

angel@khaleejtimes.com

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