Exclusive: As father of six steps out of ISS in historic feat tonight, UAE astronaut's family on earth to watch every move

He has already made history as the first Arab astronaut on a long-duration space mission. And today, he will take that giant step for the Arab world as the first astronaut to set off on a historic spacewalk


Sahim Salim


Angel Tesorero

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Published: Thu 27 Apr 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 28 Apr 2023, 8:22 AM

When he was a kid, Sultan AlNeyadi loved looking up at the sky to see the stars, and that ignited his passion to go to space. Now, he is making history as the first Arab astronaut who will do a spacewalk, and his kids and family will witness every moment of it.

In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times on Thursday, Adnan AlRais, mission manager of the UAE Astronaut Programme, said AlNeyadi’s family is very proud of his historic spacewalk today (April 28).

Pictured: Adnan AlRais
Pictured: Adnan AlRais

“We have very positive feedback from the family,” noted AlRais, adding: “They are following his activities and are very much aware of what he is doing.”

“Sultan himself is very excited. We are in contact with him on a regular basis. We have our own means of communication and during our regular meetings, we go through his plans and the activities ahead,” continued AlRais, noting that AlNeyadi, a father of six, has always been in constant communication with his family.

Family first

It’s nice to recall that Al Neyadi’s family, including his father, children, cousins and friends, were there at the launch site in the early days of March when he blasted off to space. AlNeyadi even shared a touching photo of him with his son before liftoff. He captioned it: “Today, we fly to pave the way for the next generations.”

His father, Saif Al Neyadi, meanwhile, shared a video montage of Sultan giving fist bumps to his children before hopping into the Tesla car that brought him to the launch pad. Saif also expressed how proud he was of his son. He said: “I’m really proud of Sultan, not because he is my son, but because he is a son of the UAE.”

AlNeyadi always carries that deep connection with his family and homeland. On April 12, he shared a striking image of his hometown, captured 400km above Earth from the orbiting International Space Station (ISS) – his abode in space for six months.

AlNeyadi greeted everyone in Al Ain (followed by a purple heart emoji) and said: “My cherished recollections of Umm Ghafa – its inviting streets and warm-hearted people remain etched in my memory forever.”

First for the Arab world

AlNeyadi has certainly come a long way – from the desert dunes of Umm Ghafa, 30 kilometres southeast of Al Ain, in Abu Dhabi, where he was born on May 23, 1981, to becoming the ‘Sultan of Space.’

He has already made history as the first Arab astronaut on a long-duration space mission. And today, he will take that giant step for the Arab world as the first astronaut to set off on a historic spacewalk.

AlNeyadi will be accompanied by veteran Nasa astronaut Stephen Bowen. They will spend around six hours and 30 minutes for the extravehicular activity (EVA) or spacewalk, that will expose them to various challenges in the vacuum of space – where temperature varies from as cold as negative 121 degrees Centigrade to as hot as 121 degrees in the sunlight, which is almost three times the peak of summer in the UAE.

But it will be an exhilarating and unique experience that only a select few who are fully trained and prepared will get to witness in their lifetime. It is from that vantage point that spacewalking astronauts like AlNeyadi and Bowen will see the Earth, and the rest of the solar system, with only the helmet’s visor separating them from the vastness of the universe, as noted by Hazzaa AlMansoori, the first Emirati astronaut who flew to space in 2019.

The ISS orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes, and AlNeyadi will also get to experience a sunrise and a sunset every 45 minutes from the floating space laboratory.

Continue to shine bright

Al Neyadi once watched the Milky Way and the stars from that remote area in the city of Al Ain. And, as he said in previous interviews, that was the spark that started everything – “thinking about going to space and travelling to other planets.”

Today, his family will intensely watch him do the spacewalk, and the spark that ignited his dream to go to space will most certainly continue to shine bright among his children and the youth of the UAE.



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