Al Neyadi health1-1686148048940
From left Dr Hanan Al Suwaidi, Adnan Al Rais, Salem Humaid Al Marri and Saud Karmustaji, director of communications at MBRSC during a media briefing after the fifth edition of the “A Call from Space” event at MBRU in Dubai on Wednesday

Dubai: Has living for over three months in space impacted the health of UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi? This was the question in the minds of most of the audience at the latest edition of “A Call from Space” event with the Sultan of Space, who is on the longest Arab space mission on board the International Space Station (ISS), on Wednesday.

Dedicated to the space medicine and health sector, the fifth edition of the programme by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), the agency behind the UAE Astronaut Programme, was organised in collaboration with the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU).

Dr Hanan Al Suwaidi, flight surgeon, UAE Astronaut Programme, answered questions about Al Neyadi’s health.

Dr Al Suwaidi, who is also the region’s only space flight surgeon, said she has been constantly monitoring the health parameters of Al Neyadi.

“We monitor the astronauts in terms of their weight, heart rate, how much nutrients they get etc. We monitor them throughout the mission.”

“We are monitoring all these for Sultan and everything is within the [normal] ranges and there are no concerns about his health,” she said.

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Dr Al Suwaidi said she has also been monitoring if Al Neyadi has been eating and sleeping well. Periodically, she also makes live calls with him to discuss his health and fitness.

The doctor explained that astronauts live in harsh conditions in the microgravity of space and a spacewalk or Extravehicular Activity is considered “the riskiest thing any human can do in space.”

She said Al Neyadi’s oxygen saturation levels and heart rate were constantly monitored during the historic spacewalk that he had conducted on April 28 and he had successfully endured the challenges.

According to her, Sultan has made no compromise on his exercise regime and that is standing him in good stead in terms of maintaining his muscles and bone strength.

‘Space is harsh’

During the live call with hundreds of members of the medical fraternity including doctors, researchers and other health workers, Al Neyadi also answered questions about his health and exercise regime over 400km above the Earth.

He said he exercises for at least two-and-a-half-hours every day to keep his muscles and body mass intact. “We can do cycling. We have treadmills and other devices.”

Al Neyadi is also the first astronaut to practice martial art jiu-jitsu on-board the ISS.

“Space is harsh … you are just floating and you can be susceptible to motion sickness and you can have various symptoms especially in the first few days. But we are trained to mitigate these symptoms and effects of microgravity on our health,” he explained.

While there are no doctors other than astronauts who are from the medical field on board the ISS, he said the orbital residents always have access to a pharmacy with medicines and medical support from the ground stations. “We also have a whole set of procedures to help an incapacitated crew member [if need be].”

Al Neyadi said astronauts including himself are subjects of studies to develop future medicines that would be beneficial to humans in space and on the Earth. “We are also doing experiments to study the benefits of manufacturing medicines in space,” he added.

Al Neyadi has crossed the half way of his mission which began on March 3 and is scheduled to return to the Earth by the end of August.

Allaying fears about any deterioration in the health of the Emirati astronaut, Dr Al Suwaidi said that everyone at MBRSC was very proud of Al Neydi and they “cannot wait for him to be back.”

‘Come back fitter’

Salem Humaid Al Marri, director general of MBRSC, said: “ … when somebody is living in space, they have to be able to live in an environment which is enclosed … They have to have a healthy body and a healthy mind to be able to thrive and survive and conduct all of the work, all the science experiments, and there is a lot of pressure on them. So as you can see, that’s not something that simple. And this is why we have somebody like Dr Hanan and the system that is behind, either at Nasa or here at MBRU, which is to act as a support …”

“The reason Sultan does two-and-a- a-half hours of exercise is because throughout the years, that was looked at as the best amount of exercise to make sure that his muscles, his bones, etc survive in space. So I just want you all to know that there is a very big system behind Sultan at the [MBRS} Centre, also at Nasa and also within MBRU, making sure that he is surviving, thriving and is very happy. And usually what happens is when astronauts come back, they come back fitter than when they were on the ground. So that’s what we hope for Sultan.”

Experiments, competitions

Adnan Al Rais, mission manager, UAE Astronaut Programme, said Al Neyadi was gearing up for the second half of his mission which will be “science heavy.”

“He will be doing a lot of scientific experiments assigned by the UAE universities and he will also be hosting competitions for students. We will have a robotic competition for students to develop programmes for the robots on the ISS and Sultan will be uploading the winning programmes to the robots on board the space station,” Al Rais added.