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UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi selected as the first Arab astronaut on a 6 month mission to ISS

Sultan Al Neyadi will fly to the ISS on SpaceX's Crew-6 mission which is set to launch in 2023

UAE astronaut - Sultan Al Neyadi

The UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi  has been selected for a mission to spend six months aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the official WAM news agency reported on Monday (July 25).

Sultan Al Neyadi will become the first Arab astronaut to be part of a long-term mission to the International Space Station (ISS) after he embarks on SpaceX’s Crew-6 mission, which is expected to launch in spring 2023 from Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre in the US. Al Neyadi is expected to be onboard the ISS till September 2023, during which he will conduct many in-depth and advanced scientific experiments as part of the UAE Astronaut Programme.

The mission will place the UAE on the list of only 11 countries who have sent their astronauts on long-term missions in space and will mark the UAE as the first Arab country to send an astronaut to the ISS on a six-month space mission.

Sheikh Mohammed congratulates Sultan Al Neyadi

President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan congratulated the astronaut in a tweet, “I am proud to congratulate Sultan Al Neyadi on being selected as the 1st Arab astronaut to spend 6 months on the International Space Station as part of a mission to commence in 2023. This historic milestone builds on the strong foundations of the UAE’s burgeoning space programme.”

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said in a WAM statement: “God willing, our youth raised their heads to the sky, where the place and position of the United Arab Emirates is due.”

Sultan Al Neyadi was selected from a group of Emirati astronauts at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai.

Officials announced in April that they had purchased a seat on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket flight from private company Axiom Space (a Texas-based aerospace company), thereby securing a six-month mission to the ISS for an Emirati astronaut.

The announcement followed an agreement signed between MBRSC and Axiom Space at the UAE’s embassy in Washington. The MBRSC had then described the development as “the first Arab long-duration space mission”.

The UAE Astronaut Programme

Sultan Al Neyadi is one of the first two astronauts in the UAE Astronaut Programme, launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed forces, in 2017. The Programme aims to train and prepare a team of Emirati astronauts and send them to space for various scientific missions.

Who is the UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi?

Sultan Al Neyadi served as the back-up for Hazza Al Mansoori, in the country’s first mission to the ISS on Russian Soyuz spacecraft in September 2019, under the slogan ‘Zayed’s Ambition’ and lived on the station for eight days.

Based on an agreement between Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and the Russian space agency Roscosmos to train Emirati astronauts, Sultan Al Neyadi and Maj Hazza Al Mansouri, a fighter pilot with the Air Force, were put through intensive training in Russia for the UAE’s first mission to space. The training started from 3rd September 2018, at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre at Star City in Moscow.

UAE astronaut - Sultan Al Nayedi
Sultan Al Neyadi

After four-and-a-half years of training, the Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi is preparing for his own historic feat – the Arab world’s first long-duration space mission. Al Neyadi was selected from 4,022 candidates, following a series of mental and physical tests in the UAE and abroad.

Al Neyadi, 41, a former IT professional from Al Ain, was a network security engineer for the UAE Armed Forces and holds a Ph.D. in information technology (Data Leak age Prevention). In 2017, he started his journey through the UAE astronaut programme when he applied to become an astronaut.

He practices Jujitsu, which helped him successfully pass the UAE Astronaut Programme’s tests, as he shared the high mental abilities and fitness required. Like other ISS-assigned astronauts, he has completed about two years of basic astronaut candidate training in spacewalks, survival training and other matters. He also received training in Houston in Texas, and Cologne in Germany, as part of partnership agreements with major space agencies, including NASA, ESA, and JAXA.

UAE astronaut - Sultan Al Neyadi
Sultan Al Neyadi undergoes training in Houston

“Al Neyadi would have been in training for nearly five years by the time of the mission’s launch,” tweeted MBRSC director-general Salem Al Marri. “This (mission) will strengthen cooperation with Nasa and allow us to complete long-term experiments aboard the ISS.”

Now, Dr Al Neyadi is undergoing mission-specific training in Houston, which includes learning how to operate the Crew Dragon spacecraft. He will be serving as mission specialist and as an operator on the space station.

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Al Neyadi will join NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg; they will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively, abroad Crew-6 along with Russian cosmonaut Andrei Fedyaev. Crew-6 will be the sixth operational astronaut mission that SpaceX flies to the ISS for NASA.  The team will conduct experiments and manage operations of the station.