'Thirsty to learn': UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi hopes to 'push boundaries of science' during historic space mission

Addressing the media at the John F Kennedy Space Centre, he said the team is physically, mentally and technically ready for this mission

By Angel Tesorero

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Photo: Dubai Media Office
Photo: Dubai Media Office

Published: Tue 21 Feb 2023, 11:33 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Mar 2023, 12:30 PM

[Editor's Note: This copy has been updated to reflect the new target launch date for the mission. It will now take off on February 27 at 10.45am (UAE time), not February 26. Click here for the latest update.]

The countdown has begun for that "giant leap" for UAE's space programme as Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi is a few days away from creating history as the first Arab astronaut to go on a six-month space mission.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Kelvin Manning, the Deputy Director of NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Centre, announced that everything is in order for the launch of Nasa Crew-6 bound for the International Space Station (ISS), which is now scheduled for liftoff on February 27.

Wearing the typical blue astronaut flight suits, the crew members comprising Al Neyadi, and his Crew-6 colleagues — Nasa mission commander Stephen Bowen, Nasa pilot Warren Hoburg and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev — spoke to the press about their take on the mission.

Al Neyadi made his opening speech by thanking his family, trainers and colleagues. He said: "We have a great team and can't ask for more. We are ready - physically, mentally and technically for this mission, through which we aim to share knowledge and spread enthusiasm for space exploration."

Photo: MBRSpaceCentre/Twitter
Photo: MBRSpaceCentre/Twitter

The upcoming mission will make the UAE only the 11th country in the world to send astronauts on a long-term mission to space. A total of 250 research experiments will be carried out by the team during the six-month mission to the ISS, and Al Neyadi will personally conduct at least 20 experiments, apart from fulfilling other tasks and conducting maintenance work on the orbiting science laboratory.

Dates in space

Aside from conducting scientific experiments, Al Neyadi will also spread Emirati culture and tradition with his crewmates. He has planned to carry dates to space and share them during Ramadan aboard the ISS. “I wouldn't miss carrying dates with me as these are special request by commander Bowen,” he quipped.

He also said he would wear his jujitsu kimono and practice some moves.

Ambassadors of science

Sultan Al Neyadi also expressed his excitement at the possibility that two Saudi astronauts could join him during his stay on the ISS.

The Saudi Space Commission earlier announced that Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Alqarni would be part of the Ax-2 mission to the ISS scheduled for launch no earlier than May on a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.

“It will be exciting and really interesting,” said Al Neyadi, adding, "Prince Sultan bin Salman was the first Arab astronaut to go to space in 1985, followed by a Syrian astronaut in 1987. Hazza Al Mansoori was the third in 2019, and I will be the fourth."

Al Neyadi said they will be pushing the boundaries of science, noting: “Our region is also thirsty to learn, and we ambassadors of science hope to bring more knowledge when we come back.”

Crew-6 will take off from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft Endeavour carried by a Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday at 11.07am (UAE time).


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