Dubai: “Everything seemed heavy.” This was UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi’s first reaction to his return to Earth after the longest Arab space mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Al Neyadi and his NASA SpaceX Crew-6 colleagues, NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, spoke about their mission for the first time after their return to Earth during a press conference broadcast on NASA TV on Tuesday. the night. Crew-6 returned to Earth aboard SpaceX’s Dragon Endeavor spacecraft, which splashed down at 8:17 a.m. GST on September 4, off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, and flew back to Houston shortly after.
The Emirati astronaut described the initial experiences and feelings after his re-entry into our planet’s atmosphere.
“Well, it felt very, very heavy,” he said.
Al Neyadi recalled that he was the last to leave the Dragon capsule. “And I didn’t realize I was off leash until the recovery team started pulling me. And I thought wow, that was just my way, just pressing myself into the seat. So yes, we feel very heavy. “Everything feels very heavy.”
After spending 186 days in microgravity, Al Neyadi admitted that the feeling of weight even led him to give up drinking water, as he preferred to minimize unnecessary movements.
He said: “I remember Steve gave me a bottle of water. He felt really heavy, like a ton. I just didn’t drink it because he didn’t want to move me much…”
However, he was surprised by how quickly the human body can adapt to the sudden change from microgravity to the Earth’s gravitational pull.
“It’s amazing how quickly you can improve,” he said, revealing that the recovery process unfolds every hour.
Currently undergoing rehabilitation in Houston, Al Neyadi explained that astronauts progressively regain mobility, starting with arm movement and then progressively incorporating leg movements. He noted that the rapid adaptation to Earth conditions reflects the ability of space travelers to acclimatize to the weightlessness of space.
“It’s not easy. You might have some difficulty walking. You might get dizzy.”
Ready for space again
Despite all the challenges, he said he wanted to return to space and, if given the chance, travel with the same crewmates.
He explained that his mission is a continuation of the UAE Astronaut Program, starting with his colleague Hazzaa Al Mansoori, who flew to the ISS in 2019.
“This is the second mission. We have astronauts in training that will end next year. So it’s a continuation of human spaceflight. And I’m happy to be a part of this.”
Emphasizing the UAE’s commitment to going further into space, he said the country had signed the Artemis Accords for the Moon. “Hopefully we can be a part of this in the future,” she said.
A big thank you
He took the opportunity to thank the entire recovery team, the flight surgeons and everyone at the rehabilitation facilities “who get us back to normal as quickly as possible.”
In a message to everyone in the region and specifically in the UAE, he said: “I just wanted to say thank you… Everyone, thank you for the help and support. You may see four astronauts traveling to space, but honestly, this is not possible without the support of family, the support of friends and the ground teams. “We’re not talking about hundreds… we’re talking about thousands of people working tirelessly to make this possible during these six months.”
He gratefully remembered those who worked tirelessly around the clock to facilitate all the scientific experiments, daily activities, technology demonstrations and maintenance work performed by the astronauts aboard the ISS.
“It is a great thing and, coming from a region where space missions were suspended for a long period, I am humbled by this experience. That is why I want to thank you all,” he stated.
He also remembered to thank his Crew-6 crewmate and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, who was unable to participate in the press conference due to travel.
They are not records, but the impact does matter
He has written new chapters in the history of the United Arab Emirates by becoming the first Arab to carry out the longest space mission in the region and the first Arab to conduct a spacewalk, also known as Extravehicular Activity (EVA), in the vacuum of outer space outside the ISS. .
However, Al Neyadi said he values the impact his mission created in the region more than the number of personal records he set.
“It’s really nice to see young people and the community in general talking about the space… So, for me, that’s more important. It’s not about the person or the number of days. This can be easily broken.”
He said he wanted to share his experiences with people in the region and answer questions about life in space in simple language. “I wanted to do that even before I arrived. [to Earth]. So, I interacted with a lot of people, answering their questions and speaking the Arabic language and trying to explain everything in a very simple and scientific way… That is the most important part of my mission.”
Fun and favorite food.
Al Neyadi, the first of the crew members to arrive at the ISS on March 3, once again recalled the early days and explained how incredible it felt to experience weightlessness in the space station’s microgravity environment.
“It was really cool, testing all the aspects of physics and trying to use minimal force to get from one place to another. We had some competitions…trying to float without touching any wires or hitting any walls or anything. So it was a lot of fun.”
Although they were very busy with their work, the astronauts shared that they also had fun aboard the ISS, playing chess with members of the ground station on Earth and doing things of individual interest.
Although astronauts can eat a variety of foods and he also shared some Emirati food with his colleagues, Al Neyadi revealed that his favorite food on the ISS was a mango salad. “I would say one specific food that I really liked until the end of the mission… was mango salad. “He was my favorite during the entire mission.”
Recalling some special moments in space, Al Neyadi said he was lucky to have had some downtime during his spacewalk to perform maintenance outside the ISS on April 28.
He remembered NASA Cap Com (Capsule Communication) astronaut Anne McClain, who was giving instructions for the EVA, telling him to take five minutes to take some photographs.
“It was really cool…just having that moment and watching
Go down to Earth and see nothing. What protects you from dying is a thin glass [the visor] and you are seeing everything [from outer space] “clear as crystal.”
He was also honored to see the enthusiasm of scientists while conducting various experiments aboard the ISS.
“It’s really surprising and you feel how important it is
The mission is…why we go to space and why we explore…because it’s a unique environment that gives us insight into heart tissues, for example, or any biomanufacturing or the effectiveness of a drug. “It is truly amazing and humbling to be a part of such efforts.”
The astronauts said their mission would not be complete until the last sample. [from the experiments they conducted] was collected. “And we have about another month for that,” said Bowen, who, along with Hoburg, also shared his off-world experiences during the mission.