Emirati astronaut Sultan al-Neyadi is due to return to Earth after a historic six-month mission in space, which marked the longest Arab space sojourn to date. With this, the UAE national become the first Arab to perform a spacewalk and welcome Saudi astronauts Ali al-Qarni and Rayyanah Barnawi – the first Arab woman ever sent into orbit – on board the International Space Station (ISS).
On September 2, the Emirati astronaut – who has broken several records during his mission and conducted vital tests to help benefit life on Earth – will return with NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev on a SpaceX Dragon capsule with an expected splashdown off the coast of Florida, US, on Sunday will leave ISS, where he has been working since March 3, to begin a 24-hour voyage back home, reports AlArabia English News service.
“Sultan and Crew-6 are now preparing to return to Earth and we are ready to welcome them back,” Salem al-Marri, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, which heads the UAE’s astronaut programme, posted on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
His mission saw al-Neyadi – who is only the second person from his country to fly to space and the first to launch from US soil as part of a long-duration space station team – conduct more than 200 experiments on the orbiting outpost.
In April, he officially became the first Arab astronaut to perform a spacewalk, for which he trained for more than 55 hours at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) in Johnson Space Center, Houston. During his spacewalk – which lasted seven hours – al-Neyadi worked to update the power channels on ISS.
“I didn’t feel it because I was really focusing on the mission and it was (a) really great feeling, just to see that you are floating in a spacesuit,” al-Neyadi told international media at the time. He has followed in the footsteps of other Arab astronauts, including Emirati Hazzaa al-Mansouri, who became the first Arab on the ISS in 2019, and Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman, who became the first Arab to travel to space in 1985.