UAE: Emirati astronaut to conduct at least 20 science experiments on International Space Station during upcoming mission

The endeavour will put the nation on the list of only 11 countries that have sent their astronauts on long-term space missions


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Wed 25 Jan 2023, 11:27 PM

Last updated: Wed 25 Jan 2023, 11:32 PM

About 250 science experiments for research will be carried onboard the six-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS), which will also include Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi conducting at least 20 science experiments at the orbiting laboratory.

Nasa said that the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon Endeavour spacecraft is scheduled to set off on February 26 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 2:07 Eastern time, which is 11.07am local time.

Al Neyadi will be making his first trip to space, representing the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center.

Apart from Al Neyadi, the other members of the SpaceX Crew-6 are NASA commander Stephen Bowen, pilot William Hoburg, and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.

Speaking at the Nasa press conference virtually, Salem Humaid Al Marri, Director General, MBRSC, expressed confidence that Al Neyadi, who will be the flight engineer for Expedition 69, will effectively contribute to the upcoming mission.

He said: “If we [the UAE] look at what we will be doing [on] this flight, we have over 20 science experiments from UAE universities and institutions that Sultan will be conducting, as well as over 15 other events with university students, leadership, and various participants – here in the UAE and globally – that we think will create a big impact. But we also have a lot of education[al] activities for the kids, and a lot of different operational elements that we will coordinate with Nasa.”

He adds, “Sultan is a very capable astronaut and he's been training [with] Nasa for the past three years. Altogether, he’s got over five years of training. He was the backup for Emirati astronaut Hazzaa Al Mansouri, and went through the whole process for that type of a mission. He's also capable and fully trained in extravehicular activity and fully trained in operations of the ISS. We hope that he can be a very active participant in this flight.”

The mission will put the UAE on the list of only 11 countries that have sent their astronauts on long-term space missions.

Shedding light on the final checks as the mission gets ready for take-off, Steve Stitch, Manager, Commercial Crew Programme, Nasa, says it will be a busy year ahead.

He says, “As we get into that final phase, a lot of hardware is already at the Kennedy Space Centre. Dragon is being processed. It's going through those final checkouts. The crew will go down and do a check of that spacecraft this weekend and look at the interior and all [its] systems.”

He adds, “We have almost all of the Falcon9 hardware at the Cape for the flight. The first stage is still getting its final processing in McGregor, Texas; it'll ship down around February 4 or so, and then we'll have all the hardware down for the flight for the final putting of all the pieces together. Our NASA and SpaceX teams are doing the final reviews of all the data for the flight. We're in the process of closing out any in-flight anomalies from other missions. I'm extremely proud of the team that we have. We've been working really hard, even through the holiday into the New Year, and getting ready for Crew 6.”

Talking about the first human spaceflight mission of 2023, Sarah Walker, Director, Dragon Mission Management SpaceX, highlighted: “This kicks off an exciting year for the ISS. For the Dragon Crew 6, it is SpaceX’s eighth human space-flight mission to the International Space Station, and overall the 34th Dragon mission to the orbiting laboratory. It's been an honour to work with Stephen, William, Andrey and Sultan, and we look forward to supporting their journey to ISS together in a few weeks.”

Sparing a moment to reflect on the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster that happened two decades ago, Kathyrn Leuders, Associate Administrator for the Space Operations Mission Directorate at Nasa underlined, “This week is often solemn and a thoughtful time for us in the Nasa family, with the 20th anniversary of Columbia yesterday.

Our day of remembrance tomorrow [is just one of multiple reminders] for us, that we need to in human spaceflight remain vigilant, and continue to recognise that we are keeping the safety of the crew in our hands. So, we're really headed into a very critical time right now in our joint operations heading into, I would say, one of the busiest increments in the history of station. There are a string of critical missions coming up including our crew six launch.”


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