Science

Arab Media Forum: UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi reveals ‘the best thing’ he received in space

Dubai: Receiving a handwritten message from his mother, who had never been to school, was “the best thing” he received in space, UAE astronaut Dr Sultan Al Neyadi revealed on Wednesday.

The Emirati astronaut, who made history twice by completing the longest Arab space mission and becoming the first Arab spacewalker, addressed the 21st Arab Media Forum, the region’s largest annual media gathering, in Dubai.

This was his first public appearance in Dubai after his return to the United Arab Emirates earlier this month following his space mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

The UAE space hero received thunderous applause before, during and after his session titled “From the Desert to the Stars” on the main stage of the region’s largest annual media gathering, which concluded on Wednesday.

Present in the packed room was Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, second deputy ruler of Dubai and chairman of the Dubai Media Council, along with other senior officials.

Sheikh Ahmed (center, front row) with Al Neyadi, Hazza Al Mansoori, Mona Al Marri and others after the session
Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

During the session, Al Neyadi recalled his journey from the unpolluted desert city of Umm Ghafa in Al Ain to seeing the Milky Way from space, just as he had wished in his childhood.

Grateful to parents

He credited his parents for everything he accomplished in his life and thanked them for raising his children with values ​​in life even though his parents were not highly educated.

“I thank my father and mother, they deserve all the credit… They taught us the values ​​of faith, science and the principles that we should cherish in life,” Al Neyadi said.

He then shared an anecdote from his six-month space odyssey aboard the ISS. “My mother never went to school and my father did not complete his education and joined the military early,” she recalled.

“After we graduated, my mother studied alone. She learned to read and write and memorized the Quran. The best thing I received on the International Space Station was a handwritten message from my mother,” she said to loud applause from the audience.

He added that his mother wished him success and conveyed to him that the entire country was proud of him and so was she.

Family ties

During his space mission, Al Neyadi had expressed his desire to have his mother cook his food. He always spoke of his father as his greatest inspiration and often mentioned how much she appreciated his family ties.

Al Neyadi also recounted the happy moments of reuniting with his children when he landed in Abu Dhabi to a hero’s welcome from the country’s leaders and hundreds of people, including senior officials, on September 18.

When asked about his children’s future ambitions, the 42-year-old father of six said: “One wants to be a professional diver, another a soccer star and another wants to be a mechanic,” he said with a gesture. of repairing things, causing a wave of laughter among the audience.

Next stop, the Moon?

Speaking of his own ambition going forward, he said he had told Salem Humaid Al Amiri, director of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC), the agency behind the UAE Astronaut Programme, that “we should go to the Moon next”, soon. after re-entry to Earth.

“It’s not just me. That is, all of us. Sultan, Hazzaa and everyone.”

He was referring to Hazzaa Al Mansoori, the first UAE astronaut to go to space exactly four years ago, who was also present in the audience, as well as the other two UAE astronauts who are currently training for future space missions.

Al Neyadi noted that the UAE’s space program is sustainable and ongoing.

Referring to the President, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, he said: “Abu Khaled always supported us. He knew the importance of our work. It wasn’t just for the sake of creating an event. “It was for all Emiratis.”

“The ambition of our leadership in this sector is great. “Our leadership is planning things beyond the second and third mission,” he said, recalling how His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai had envisioned the country’s future space missions. .

“Our youth have a great opportunity and must be prepared to undertake these missions… Our mission also has an Arab dimension, as our region was previously a cultural beacon in Damascus, Baghdad and Egypt.”

Learning and education are the only secret to achieving achievements and regaining the region’s past glory, he said.

One nation, one team

The pride of the nation also expressed its pride in having the support of the entire country for its achievement. “The Emirati nation worked as one team and supports my achievement,” he said.

“We are working with the ambition of the founding father of the United Arab Emirates, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and we all hope to give back to our country. The ancestors have worked hard for this generation who are reaping the benefits of their hard work. “It is time for Emirati youth to give something back to their country.”

He said that every citizen who proudly wears the title of Emirati gets what he deserves. “When you work hard, you will get what you deserve as Emirati citizens. We always say that space is different. But we have sports and also other fields in which we have to represent our nation.”

Al Neyadi noted that the UAE has left a strong mark in the field of space science with our astronauts, satellites and the Hope probe to Mars. “We enjoy credibility and confidence in our capabilities and have proven our worth.”

He noted that space missions never happen overnight. “They require extensive planning and training, and we trained in every aspect to ensure the mission was completed optimally.”

“I was living every moment and I’m proud I didn’t make any mistakes.”

He said he had never felt lonely during his life aboard the International Space Station, as he was always busy with scientific missions, experiments and documenting Earth observations with photographs and videos.

“We are trained to deal with the feeling of loneliness. [when you live away from Earth]. We are trained to deal with astronauts from different regions and female astronauts and to deal with life in a closed space where conflict may arise.

“I learned on the space station to present scientific material in simple language. I used to wonder how media people shared so much content in short videos. But I also managed to simplify scientific things in simplified Arabic through my videos.”

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