Sultan AlNeyadi will become the first Arab astronaut to spend six months on the International Space Station (ISS). The Emirati will be part of a Nasa mission that will take off in the spring of 2023.
The SpaceX Crew-6 mission is scheduled for launch from Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre. AlNeyadi is expected to be onboard the ISS till September 2023.
With this, the UAE will become the 11th country in history to send a long-term mission to space — a milestone achievement considering that the country is relatively new in the sector.
This will be the second major space mission the UAE will launch over the next few months, with the other being its lunar mission that will land the first Arab rover on the moon.
Congratulations are pouring in from the highest quarters for AlNeyadi, with the UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, leading the tributes.
“This historic milestone builds on the strong foundations of the UAE’s burgeoning space programme,” he tweeted.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, tweeted that AlNeyadi was selected from among several Emirati astronauts for the mission.
Sultan AlNeyadi is one of the first two astronauts from the UAE. He served as the back-up for Hazzaa AlMansoori for the country’s first mission to the ISS in September 2019. AlNeyadi and AlMansoori were selected from 4,022 candidates to become the first Emirati astronauts after a series of tests.
The mission comes months after a strategic partnership was signed between the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and US-based human spaceflight and infrastructure company Axiom Space.
The mission to the ISS will include AlNeyadi and three other astronauts: Nasa’s Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg, and Russian cosmonaut Andrei Fedyaev.
They will be welcomed onboard the space station by a team of Russian cosmonauts as well as American and European astronauts. The team will conduct experiments and manage operations of the station.
AlNeyadi has undergone multiple spaceflight training programmes, including long-range ones, since 2018.
Along with AlMansoori, AlNeyadi trained for the UAE’s first mission to the ISS. He began the training in September 2018 at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, Moscow. He also underwent training in Houston, Texas, and Cologne, Germany, as part of partnership agreements with major space agencies, including NASA, ESA, and JAXA.
He has undergone more than 90 courses, with the total number of training hours exceeding 1,400.
“AlNeyadi would have been in training for nearly five years by the time of the mission's launch,” tweeted MBRSC director-general Salem AlMarri. “This (mission) will strengthen cooperation with Nasa and allow us to complete long-term experiments aboard the ISS.”
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