Dubai: An out-of-this-world welcome awaits UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi in his homeland when he lands in Abu Dhabi on Monday, September 18, after his triumphant journey from space to Earth.
The nation will honor the ‘Sultan of Space’ after he completed the longest Arab space mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS), which lasted six months, and the first spacewalk by an Arab.
Al Neyadi, along with three other NASA SpaceX Crew-6 crewmates, landed from the ISS on the SpaceX Dragon Endeavor spacecraft off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida in the US, at 8:17 a.m. of the United Arab Emirates, on September 4.
They then flew to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, US, for a two-week rehabilitation program to readjust to gravity and life on Earth.
A hero’s welcome has been arranged for the 42-year-old Emirati astronaut from Al Ain, who returns home after more than a year, including the six months he spent aboard the ISS and the training period outside the Emirates United Arabs.
Visit gulfnews.com for all live updates of Al Neyadi’s historic return to the homeland starting at 5:20 pm on Monday, September 18.
thank you message
Before his grand return home, Al Neyadi sent a message of thanks and gratitude to all those who supported him, from the wise leaders to his family and friends and those who worked for the success of his mission.
He expressed his deep sense of unity and achievement in a video shared by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) in Dubai, the agency behind the UAE Astronaut Programme, on its account on the microblogging platform X (formerly Twitter).
Al Neyadi said: “Hello, this time I greet you from Earth after we returned safely from space. “It has been an incredible journey, going to space and spending six months aboard the ISS, and I am overwhelmed by the joy of our return to Earth, along with the incredible reception and commitment from people near and far.”
He added: “Our mission has been accomplished, but this marks the beginning of a series of contributions we aim to make in this field. We always emphasize that our mission is but a fragment of a larger dynamic system. While we were at the forefront, it was the tireless efforts and dedication of numerous people working behind the scenes for countless months that propelled this mission to success.”
He further said: “Words cannot truly express my deep gratitude to everyone who played a role in the success of this mission, from our wise leadership in the UAE to my supportive family and friends, and the committed team. at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center.”
Al Neyadi also took the opportunity to thank NASA and other international partners who made his mission possible.
The former UAE Armed Forces network engineer is expected to be accompanied by senior MBRSC officials on his flight to Abu Dhabi from Houston.
Fully prepared to fly home
Salem Humaid Al Marri, CEO of MBSC, stated in X that Al Neyadi is “fully prepared to return home.”
Al Marri shared a photo of him with members of the MBRSC team who are stationed in Houston. “We are present with the administrative, medical and technical teams in Houston with Sultan and he is fully prepared to return home, God willing, on Monday,” he said.
Al Marri said the scientific program and work schedule that Al Neyadi had started after returning from the ISS was continuing and that everything was “good.”
“Every time we talk, he tells us about his enthusiasm and longing for his homeland after an absence of more than a year between training and the mission in space,” Al Marri added.
The father of six was welcomed by family members, including his father, wife and brother, in Houston after his historic return to Earth. However, Al Neyadi has not yet met his children, including one born during his space mission, or other members of his family.
Earlier on Saturday, Dr. Hanan Al Suwaidi, MBRSC flight surgeon, gave an update on the rehabilitation phase the ‘Sultan of Space’ is undergoing.
In a video message on the MBRSC account on X, Dr. Hanan said: “I have good news to share with you. A few days have passed since Sultan and his crewmates returned to Earth. Today they are in a rehabilitation program, medical tests and continue the investigations assigned to them. Sultan’s health improves not only daily, but also hour by hour.”
March 2: NASA’s SpaceX-6 crew, including Sultan Al Neyadi, blasts off into space from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, US.
March 3: Al Neyadi and his Crew-6 colleagues float toward the International Space Station
April 28: Al Neyadi performs the first spacewalk by an Arab
September 3: SpaceX Dragon Endeavor undocks from ISS with Crew-6
September 4: Endeavor lands off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, USA.
September 12: Al Neyadi and two crewmates make their first public appearance after returning to Earth on NASA TV.
September 18: The Sultan of Space returns to his homeland, the United Arab Emirates
‘Everything felt heavy’
Speaking about his mission for the first time after his return to Earth, Al Neyadi revealed on September 12 the challenges he faced upon re-entry into our planet’s atmosphere. “Well, he felt very, very heavy,” he said.
After spending 186 days in microgravity, Al Neyadi admitted that the feeling of weight even led him to give up drinking water because he felt like the water bottle weighed “like a ton.”
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.
Despite all the challenges, he said he wanted to return to space and, if given the chance, travel with the same crewmates.
Once in the UAE, Al Neyadi is expected to share his experiences with the people of the country, especially students.
In another video shared by MBRSC on Sunday, Hazzaa Al Mansoori, the first UAE astronaut to go to space in 2019 and Al Neyadi’s backup astronaut for UAE Mission 2, spoke about Al Neyadi’s immediate task after return to the UAE.
“Following the success of UAE Mission 2, the next phase will focus on returning to the UAE and sharing this unique experience with different entities such as schools, universities and the people of my colleague Sultan Al Neyadi,” said Al Mansoori.
Al Mansoori, who now has the profile of Astronaut Office Manager at MBRSC according to the title seen in the video, said that one of the objectives of the UAE Astronaut Program is to promote science, share knowledge and inspire future generations.
“In addition, my colleagues Nora Al Matrooshi and Mohammad Al Mulla are currently in Houston as part of NASA’s Astronaut Candidate Class,” he said, referring to the second group of Emirati astronauts.
“They are training in the different modules and systems of the International Space Station, preparing for spacewalks and learning to operate robotic arms. The main objective of this is to prepare Emirati astronauts for future missions,” added Al Mansoori, who was also the first Arab Augmentation for Expedition 69 involving Crew-6 aboard the ISS.
Al Neyadi blasted off into space with Crew-6 on March 3 and spent 186 days in space to complete the first long-duration human spaceflight mission by an Arab aboard the ISS. He scripted the story for the second time when he became the first Arab to perform a spacewalk, an Extravehicular Activity (EVA), in the vacuum of outer space outside the ISS on April 28.
Benefits for humanity
Al Neyadi’s mission included more than 200 scientific experiments and technological demonstrations, the results of which are expected to benefit humanity on Earth and in future human spaceflight missions.
Furthermore, its outreach initiatives and constant communication about its activities in space kept not only the UAE, but the entire region engaged and informed on space issues.
After spending about a week in the United Arab Emirates, he is expected to return to Houston to complete investigative work.
Al Neyadi’s historic mission was called Zayed Ambition 2 as it was the second edition of the UAE Astronaut Program which aimed to fulfill the ambition of the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
The UAE Astronaut Program is funded by the ICT Fund of the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA).
Mission highlights in numbers
• Duration of the longest Arab space mission: 6 months
• Number of days in space: 186
• Number of days on board the ISS: 184
• Time spent in outer space for the spacewalk: 7:01 hours
• Distance recorded aboard the ISS: 79 million miles
• Number of orbits around the Earth completed: 2,976
• Number of experiments carried out: more than 200