UAE's 6-month space mission: Astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi reveals what he'll miss most on earth

The ground team at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre is preparing some surprises to make the astronaut feel at home on the International Space Station

by

Nandini Sircar

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Published: Thu 2 Feb 2023, 7:35 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Mar 2023, 12:38 PM

Six months is a long time, and if there's anything UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi will miss when he's up there in space, he said it would be his mother's cooking.

Al Neyadi is now in his final weeks of training ahead of the UAE's next historic odyssey, a 180-day mission on the International Space Station (ISS). The Emirati astronaut, together with three other members of Crew 6, is set to blast off on a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft no earlier than February 26.


Knowing the big task ahead of the astronaut, the ground team at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre is preparing 'some surprises' that could lift his spirits throughout the mission. Another UAE astronaut, Hazaa Al Mansoori, vowed to stay in touch with him.

There will certainly be a feel of home on ISS, Al Neyadi told Khaleej Times on the sidelines of a Press conference.


"I don't want to reveal everything. I think we will have some Emirati food there and hopefully an Emirati dress, like a kandura for special occasions like Ramadan and Eid. And, needless to say I am going to miss my mother’s cooking," he said.

What's coming up

Al Neyadi will go into quarantine shortly before he flies off to space on a long-haul mission. For decades, astronauts have isolated themselves to ensure that they are virus-free and ready to fly.

“We have some specific procedures now. We'll go into quarantine for at least two weeks to make sure that we are totally ready and safe to go to the space station. Two years ago, when we said quarantine, nobody would understand the meaning. Now, everybody understands what's quarantine… after Covid. So, we're going into isolation to make sure that we're ready and healthy to go to the station, without any complications," he explained.

Seated in a Tesla, Al Neyadi along with his other three colleagues will be sent on his first crew mission to launch from the US.

The Tesla vehicle is presumably chosen because Space X is its sister company.

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The liftoff explained

"While travelling to the launch pad, astronauts get to select some sort of music. I haven't decided mine yet," Al Neyadi said.

After the take-off the from Launch Pad 39A on a Falcon 9 rocket, the Dragon Endeavour spaceraft will blast off at a speed of 17,500mph, putting it on an intercept course with the space station.

Once in orbit, the crew and the SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California, will monitor a series of automatic maneuvers.

According to Nasa, once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California, will monitor a series of automatic manoeuvres that will guide Endeavour to the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module.

After several manoeuvres to gradually raise its orbit, Endeavour will be in position to rendezvous and dock with its new home in orbit. The spacecraft is designed to dock autonomously, but the crew can also take control and pilot manually, if necessary.

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Spacewalks and crew safety

Astronauts receive rigorous training ahead of such missions, with Al Neyadi undergoing five years of training before his maiden mission to ISS.

Crew-6 will conduct new and exciting scientific research to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit that will benefit life on the planet.

But when it comes to spacewalk, it is a dangerous extravehicular activity that requires astronauts to exit the relative safety of their spacecraft (space station or space shuttle) to perform work on its exterior.

On March 18, 1965, Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov became the first person to perform a spacewalk.

The process adheres to strict safety procedures and is performed only when a space agency determines it is absolutely necessary.

Reflecting on the possibility of Al Neyadi undertaking a spacewalk, Salem Al Marri, director-general at the MBRSC, said: “Our astronauts are trained and ready for anything that happens. The way spacewalks are decided they're based on operational reasons. Is there an operational reason to have one? If yes, who is the most capable person to do that? So, that’s a Nasa decision.”

"Before such a mission, there is always some sort of an apprehension…we've done a lot of work to send somebody to space, and I want to make sure that we can bring him back safely. That's my main concern.”



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