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Watch: Aboard special Emirates flight across the UAE to honor astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi

Dubai: Dubai’s Emirates airline on Tuesday conducted a special flight across the United Arab Emirates to celebrate the country’s space achievements and honor its space hero Dr Sultan Al Neyadi following his return from the Arab space mission. longest aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Emirates chartered the unique flight EK2641 in collaboration with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC).

Joining Dr. Al Neyadi on board was the UAE’s first astronaut, Hazzaa Al Mansoori, who was also the first Arab surge leader of Expedition 69, as well as NASA astronauts and Russian cosmonauts who formed part of Expedition 69 aboard the ISS along with Dr. Al Neyadi. The crew included American astronauts Stephen Bowen, Warren Hoburg and Francisco Rubio, as well as Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopev, Dmitry Petelin and Andrey Fedyaev. Emirates paid tribute to space heroes through special announcements on the public announcement system.

Gulf News was among select media on the flight that brought MBRSC CEO Salem Humaid Al Marri and Emirates COO Adel Al Redha along with nearly 200 MBRSC employees for the celebration.

The Emirates A380 was adorned with a specially designed astronaut decal, celebrating the UAE’s vision of developing its capabilities in space exploration and aerospace innovation on the global stage. The space-themed livery carried the MBRSC name along with an image of an astronaut. The flight also featured a space-themed menu with planet-shaped desserts and condiments.

Under the command of Captain Abdalla Abdelrahman Al Hammadi and First Officer Alex Van Der Veer, EK2641 took off from Dubai International Airport at 12 noon. The two-hour flight flew over all the emirates and made a special flyby over Al Ain, the hometown of Dr Al Neyadi. The captain made special mentions of notable places and landmarks as the flight flew over them.

Astronauts Dr Sultan Al Neyadi, Hazza Al Mansouri, Salem Humaid Al Marri, Director General of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center and officials aboard a special Emirates A380 flight to celebrate the UAE’s journey to space and the return of Dr Sultan Al Neyadi. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Space flights will be regular

Dr. Al Neyadi said he was excited to be on the plane with his extended family from the MBRSC team and Expedition crew members, as well as journalists who covered their historic mission.

He said it felt amazing to be back with his family and touring the country for the outreach program aimed at inspiring students at universities and schools, answering their questions about space missions.

“We will continue to train and continue to push our limits in space exploration,” he said of his future plan. He said members of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 crew are scheduled to return to Houston for an awards ceremony in January.

Dr. Al Neyadi hoped that space flights would become more regular and similar to flying in normal airplanes in the near future and that more young people would join the space sector.

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New livery on a special Emirates A380 flight to celebrate the UAE’s journey to space and the return of Dr Sultan Al Neyadi. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Space and climate change

He also shared his happiness over the special flight that will take place just before the country’s 52nd Union Day and the COP28 United Nations Climate Action Conference in Dubai.

“It’s a great opportunity for everyone to be in the UAE and talk about ways to protect our planet… I think going to space gives us a vantage point, a different view on why we need to protect the planet as a whole. , as nations. that they take care of the next generations,” he said about COP28.

Al Mansoori said he was more than happy to be on the special flight with Al Neyadi and his friends from Expedition 69.

“Our space program is sustainable. Our leadership is supporting our program. Our plan is to launch [space missions] every four or five years,” he pointed out. She said her fondest memories of the ISS were looking down and seeing Earth.

“What we saw from about 500 kilometers above the Earth was really fascinating in terms of seeing it from up there, knowing that everyone we love and everyone we work with is down here and we have to really appreciate that to make sure we keep the safe.” planet Earth not just for us, or for the next generation, but for all subsequent generations,” he said. The astronauts walked around the flight greeting special passengers and taking photos and selfies with them.

emiratesa380was adorned with an astronaut sticker-1701182009603

Lifetime opportunity

Before take-off, Dr Al Neyadi and Al Mansoori visited Emirates Headquarters and were welcomed by Emirates Chairman Sir Tim Clark and Al Redha. Emirates employees then had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in a question and answer session followed by a meet-and-greet with the two admired astronauts.

On the occasion, Al Marri said: “We are grateful to Emirates for this exceptional gesture, in honor of the astronauts and the MBRSC team. Today’s event symbolized our shared vision and commitment to pioneering and recognizing the contributions of the aerospace sector. Looking ahead, MBRSC remains dedicated to propelling the UAE and the region towards new frontiers in space exploration and innovation. With the futuristic vision of our leadership, we are ready to unlock new discoveries, achieve milestones and further enhance our nation’s global presence in the space arena.”

Successful mission

Meanwhile, Al Redha added: “We are honored to celebrate the successful mission and return of Dr. Sultan Al Neyadi, as well as the innovative work of the MBRSC to boost the UAE’s burgeoning space sector. Whether taking to the skies or launching into the atmosphere, Emirates pilots and MBRSC astronauts share a passion for discovery and are a source of innovation and inspiration for all. While MBRSC pioneers the final frontier, Emirates’ vast network of more than 140 destinations across six continents allows land travelers to explore almost every corner of the world. Together, we will continue to support the UAE’s vision of revealing new knowledge and discovering new horizons, both on and off the planet.”

Emirates Mission to Mars

Founded in 2006, MBRSC is an advanced scientific and technological center, responsible for developing the United Arab Emirates into a global leader in space exploration and services. In addition to the world-class UAE Astronaut Programme, MBRSC is an innovation incubator developing some of the world’s highest precision and resolution imaging satellites to produce data and analysis for the global scientific and research communities. MBRSC also launched several exploration initiatives, including the successful Emirates Mars Mission in 2021, which has been collecting essential data about the Red Planet’s atmosphere for more than one Martian year, equivalent to about two Earth years.

With the clear synergies between aviation and aerospace, Emirates is also contributing to the country’s ecosystem. The Emirates Flight Training Academy, with its cutting-edge technologies, is one of the most advanced pilot training programs in the world, preparing the next generation of aviators to push the limits as they take to the skies. With 289 cadets currently enrolled, 222 of whom are Emiratis, and a further 120 having graduated and now flying for Emirates, the airline is committed to developing the country’s pipeline of talented and experienced pilots.

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