Saif Al Neyadi, father of Emirati Astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The UAE space mission is a national journey that will be recorded in history annals and we are proud that our children were chosen for this great mission, according to Saif Al Neyadi, father of reserve astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi.

Al Neyadi composed a poem to express his wishes to the UAE’s first astronauts, Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi, as the nation is days away from making history by sending its first astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS).

The UAE will send its first astronaut into space on Wednesday, September 25. Hazza Al Mansouri will board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan before blasting off into space. He will spend eight days at the International Space Station where he will carry out scientific experiments and — all the while etching his name in the history books of the UAE.

Father Al Neyadi told Gulf News he was proud that his son Sultan was among the group of people who first came to the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, and he was more proud of him when he was chosen with his colleague Hazza Al Mansouri to be the first Emirati astronauts.

“In fact, Sultan concealed from me at first that he was chosen from among the first nine candidates, and after a full year, he disclosed to me about the choice, and I was very proud of him and encouraged him,” Al Neyadi said.

Al Neyadi said today we are extremely delighted that two Emirati citizens were selected for this landmark space mission.

In December 2017, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched the UAE Astronaut Programme to find the country’s first ever space traveller.

Emiratis from all walks of life were encouraged to apply and, in the end, more than 4,000 citizens aged 17 to 67 had done so. These hopefuls were eventually whittled down to two, after rounds of training, testing and interviews.

The finalists were Hazza Al Mansouri, a 34-year-old former military pilot, and Sultan Al Neyadi, a 38-year-old doctor of information technology and former engineer for the UAE Armed Forces.

Al Mansouri was announced as the prime astronaut in April, with Dr Al Neyadi acting as his backup.

“We dedicate this achievement to the spirit of the founding Father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the Rulers of the UAE and our wise leadership, who provided every effort and support to the success of this great project.

“We’ve never felt any fear one day from the moment of the announcement of the selection of my son, but we and his mother devoted our times to pray for him and his colleague Hazza to succeed in their mission ...”

Al Neyadi’s advice to his son and colleague Hazza is to carry with them the Quran and to devote their free time to pray and read the Quran .. “We say to them: Congratulations to the country and congratulations to you that you are the sons of this beloved country ...”

The astronauts will have a final opportunity to speak to their families in the hours before launch from behind a thick wall of glass.

A father’s poem
Congratulations, I give, to this country and its men,
The pride of this Nation everywhere they land.
To our Nation a hope and to generations, role models,
With you, science and passion go hand in hand.
Repay your country in kind, with actions that speak volumes,
And may your achievements everyone understand.
To the heights of glory you go -- how difficult is anything now...,
After the greatness your accomplishments have spanned?
Your Homeland watches with hope, wishes you Godspeed,
That the Almighty protect wherever you stand.