20230903 Sultan Al Neyadi
UAE astronaut Sulan Al Neyadi is set to come back home on September 18 after completing the longest Arab space mission. Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: It is official! The historic homecoming of the Sultan of Space, UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi, after the longest Arab space mission, has been set for September 18.

“After astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi carried Zayed’s Ambition to space, it is now time for his homecoming. Stay tuned for his return to the UAE on 18 September, following the completion of the longest Arab space mission in history,” the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) announced on microblogging platform X on Thursday

The 42-year-old Emirati, who blasted off to space on March 3, spent 186 days in space to complete the first long-duration human spaceflight mission to be undertaken by an Arab aboard the International Space Station (ISS). He scripted history for the second time when he became the first Arab to conduct a spacewalk, an Extravehicular Activity (EVA), in the vacuum of outer space outside the ISS on April 28.

His mission was named Zayed Ambition 2 as it was the second edition of the UAE Astronaut Programme which aimed to fulfill the ambition of the Founding Father of the nation, the Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.


SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft

Al Neyadi and his NASA SpaceX Crew-6 crewmates returned to Earth aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft Endeavour, splashing down at 8.17am GST on September 4, off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida. The foursome, who had orbited the Earth just under 3000 orbits, then flew to Houston.

A top official of the MBRSC, the agency behind the UAE Astronaut Programme, had then announced that Al Neyadi will be flying into the UAE after two weeks.

Speaking during a NASA SpaceX media teleconference after the Crew-6 members’ successful return to Earth, Adnan Al Rais, mission manager of the UAE Astronaut Programme at MBRSC said: “He [Al Neyadi] will spend like 14 days here in Houston. And after that, he will be back in the UAE for almost a week.”

Grand reception

A grand reception is planned for the Sultan of Space who is returning home after successfully completing the longest Arab space mission, according to Salem Humaid Al Marri, the director General of MBRSC.

After the celebrations to mark his historic achievements which include over 200 scientific experiments in space, Al Neyadi will return to the US, Al Rais confirmed.

“Then again, he will be back here in Houston to continue to do science experiments.”

From Earth to space and back

Currently undergoing a recovery programme to readapt to Earth’s gravity, Al Neyadi and two of his Crew-6 colleagues, NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren Woody Hoburg, spoke for the first time about their life in space and return to Earth during a press conference aired by NASA TV on Tuesday night.

From savouring mango salads and playing chess in space to struggling to hold a bottle of water once back on Earth, Al Neyadi shared the joys of his life aboard the ISS and the challenges he faced on his return.

Having lived for 184 days in weightlessness in the microgravity environment of the orbital laboratory, Al Neyadi said everything felt heavy after he splashed down to Earth.

He also admitted that the weighty sensation even prompted him to forego drinking the water from a bottle, as he preferred to minimise any unnecessary movements

He said: “I remember Steve handing me a bottle of water. It felt really heavy like a ton. I just did not drink it because I didn’t want to move a lot…”

However, he was amazed at how rapidly the human body can adapt to the sudden shift from microgravity to Earth’s gravitational pull.

“It’s amazing how quickly you can get better,” he remarked, revealing that the process of recovery unfolds by the hour.