Its all systems go as UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi is set to return to Earth
Al Neyadi returns with the longest Arab manned space mission and first spacewalk by an Arab ‘najmonaut’ records to his name
UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi and his four other Crew-6 fellow astronauts were scheduled to return to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) on September 3, 2023, with the Emirati having set a record for carrying out the longest Arab manned space mission, spanning six months, and conducting the first-ever spacewalk by an Arab astronaut.
Crew-6 members consist of NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen (commander) and Woody Hoburg (pilot), UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi (flight specialist), and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev mission specialist).
The four astronauts lifted off to the ISS from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 2, 2023, onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle and subsequently a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.
The seven Crew-6 astronauts spent their months on the ISS conducting scientific investigations and technology demonstrations that help prepare humans for future space missions and benefit people back on Earth.
Al Neyadi, 42, was a flight specialist in the NASA-led Expedition 69 onboard the ISS.
Al Neyadi and his six Crew-6 members were set for an ocean splashdown off the coast of Tampa, Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico on September 3, 2023.
However, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) announced on September 1, 2023, that Al Neyadi’s and his fellow Crew-6 members scheduled return to Earth from the ISS had been delayed due to unfavourable weather conditions involving a hurricane in Florida, close to the ocean landing site.
According to NASA and SpaceX, the next available undocking opportunity involving the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft from the ISS stood no earlier than September 3, 2023, with an ocean splashdown off the coast of Tampa, Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico, scheduled for September 4, 2023, pending weather conditions.
Dubai-based Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), home of the UAE space programme, is providing a live feed of Al Neyadi and his fellow crew members returning to Earth between September 3 and 4, 2023.
Watch live here: www.mbrsc.ae/live
To promote Al Neyadi’s return to Earth after his historic and record-setting space mission for the entire Arab World, the MBRSC is promoting the hashtag #SafeReturnSultan.
This is the expected live feed schedule of Al Neyadi’s return to Earth (schedule subject to change):
September 3, 2023 (Undocking from the International Space Station):
- Live coverage: 3:00pm*
- Undocking: 5:05pm*
September 4, 2023 (Return to Earth):
- Live coverage: 8:30am*
- Splashdown: No earlier than 8:58am*
* All times in UAE time.
The live coverage includes:
- ISS hatch closing and undocking of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft from the ISS carrying the Crew-6 members from the ISS back to Earth.
- Coverage of the deorbit burn, entry and splashdown of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft and the official completion of Crew-6’s mission to the ISS.
First spacewalk by an Arab astronaut
As part of his Crew-6 mission onboard the ISS, Al Neyadi conducted the first spacewalk by an Arab astronaut on April 28, 2023, in tandem with NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen.
The duo spent seven hours and one minute in the vacuum of space routing cables and installing insulation to prepare the ISS structure for a new set of roll-out solar arrays to be installed after their delivery on a SpaceX Dragon cargo mission.
The Emirati astronaut also participated in more than 200 scientific and research experiments for various research organisations back on Earth, including plant genetics, human life sciences, exploration technology, fluid dynamics, material science, and advanced technologies.
He also carried out periodic maintenance and other activities on the ISS.
During his 182-day stay onboard the ISS, and while living in microgravity 24/7, Al Neyadi also participated in 19 educational and community outreach events as part of the ‘A Call from Space’ series, in which over 10,500 people from all walks of life participated in and interacted with the Emirati astronaut through live video calls and ham radio sessions.
Born on May 23, 1981, in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi emirate, UAE, Al Neyadi is a graduate of the UAE Astronaut Programme project, managed by MBRSC under the UAE’s National Space Programme and funded by the ICT Fund of the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority.
Al Neyadi has six children and is an avid practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
In the space steps of Hazzaa Al Mansoori
Al Neyadi is the second UAE astronaut to have launched and lived on the ISS, the first being Hazzaa Al Mansoori.
Al Mansoori launched to the ISS on September 25, 2019, onboard a Soyuz M5-15 spacecraft.
He spent eight days on the ISS, conducting various experiments, before returning to Earth on October 3, 2019, and landing aboard a Soyuz MS-12 capsule in Kazakhstan.
The 6 ‘najmonauts’
In addition to Al Neyadi and Al Mansoori, other Arab astronauts – also known as ‘najmonauts’ (‘najm’ meaning ‘star’ in Arabic) – who have been to the ISS include Rayyanah Barnawi, the first female Arab astronaut, a stem cell researcher, and Ali Al Warni, a fighter pilot, both from Saudi Arabia, who headed to the ISS in May 2023 as part of a private space mission initiated by the American space company Axiom Space.
At one time in May 2023, there were three Arab astronauts onboard the ISS simultaneously – Al Neyadi, Barnawi and Al Warni.
Astronauts Prince Sultan Bin Salman Abdulaziz Al Suad from Saudi Arabia and Muhammed Faris from Syria also headed to the ISS in 1985 and 1987, respectively.
UAE Mission 2 patch
For his six-month-long mission to the ISS, Al Neyadi carried a special memento, a UAE Mission 2 patch.
Inspired by the UAE Mission 1 patch that Al Mansoori used for his mission to the ISS, the UAE Mission 2 patch features Al Neyadi attired in a SpaceX launch vehicle space suit and helmet, looking up to a popular caricature of late Sheikh Zayed (the first president of the UAE) against the backdrop of the orbiting ISS, Earth, and deep space.
The logo design signifies Al Neyadi’s mission to further humanity’s space exploration ambitions and the quest to improve life on the fast-changing Earth.
Crew-6 mission patch
The sailing ship represents the Crew-6’s destination, the International Space Station, and the vessels that countless explorers have steered into the unknown.
The station anchors the Crew-6 astronauts on the dawn of missions to the Moon and Mars. The ship’s sail, a symbol of the 2012 cosmonaut class, has relative radii matching those of the Earth, the Moon, and Mars.
The Draco constellation represents NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme and shares a name with the thrusters that manoeuvre Crew-6’s SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.
The ship’s Dragon figurehead looks to the future as the four Crew-6 astronauts, whose first names are inscribed in their native languages, also look back at Earth, grateful for the tireless hours of all who support the Crew-6 mission.
Featured image: UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi holds up a floating sphere standing in for a spacecraft fuel tank as he conducts a Fluids Dynamics in Space (FLUIDICS) experiment. This ESA experiment evaluated the sloshing and wave turbulence of fluids in space. Image: NASA