Al Neyadi juggling food canisters and packages onboard the International Space Station Image Credit: NASA

Dubai: UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi has been literally juggling things in space while his research that would support future missions to the Moon and Mars is gaining momentum on the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA has released an image of Al Neyadi, who is Expedition 69 Flight Engineer on the ISS, juggling food canisters and packages from the UAE in the microgravity environment of the ISS. The photo was taken on March 31 according to the US Space Agency.

In the photo, Al Neyadi is all smiles as he juggles a liquid bottle, two space food cans and another paper packet. He can be seen sporting a white T-shirt bearing the logo of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), the Dubai-based space centre behind his mission.

In March, the Emirati astronaut helped with unloading cargo from the SpaceX CRS-27 Dragon spacecraft that delivered more than 6,200 pounds of research, hardware, and food supplies to the ISS. It is not clear if the food items that he was seen juggling with were sent in this cargo or had already been carried by Al Neyadi.

Prior to rocketing into the ISS on March 2, Al Neyadi had said he would be carrying some Emirati dishes and would share dates with his astronaut colleagues on board the ISS during Ramadan.

Kibo and MISSE

Meanwhile, NASA said Al Neyadi has also been involved in research work and experiments which are expected to support long-term mission success.

According to NASA, Al Neyadi had joined SpaceX Crew-6 commander and NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen to retrieve physics research hardware from inside Kibo’s airlock.

The ‘Kibo”’Laboratory Module is Japan’s contribution to the space station and was launched and assembled over three space shuttle missions. Kibo was designed for scientific research activities on orbit and also enables educational, cultural, and commercial opportunities. The US segment of the station provides Kibo with air, power, data, and cooling fluid.

NASA said the space physics gear, containing a variety of materials, had been placed outside the station and exposed to the harsh vacuum of space.

MISSE, or Materials International Space Station Experiment, enables government and private sectors to study how extreme temperatures, radiation, and micrometeoroids affect materials, coatings, and components. Results may improve the design of space hardware promoting long-term mission success.

MISSE is the first woman-owned facility in space. The MISSE facility of Alpha Space, a minority-woman-owned commercial space company serving the space research and development and testing markets, provides a unique platform that is available for the private sector, as well as government entities, to utilise applied materials testing or technical demonstrations.

The primary Materials ISS Experiment Flight Facility (MISSE-FF) platform provides the ability to test materials, coatings, and components or other larger experiments in the harsh environment of space, which is virtually impossible to do collectively on Earth.

Testing in low-Earth orbit (LEO) allows the integrated testing of how materials react to exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV), atomic oxygen (AO), ionising radiation, ultrahigh vacuum (UHV), charged particles, thermal cycles, electromagnetic radiation, and micrometeoroids in the LEO environment.

Upcoming spacewalk

Al Neyadi has also been preparing for an upcoming milestone in the longest Arab space mission—a spacewalk scheduled to be held on April 28. He is set to be the first Arab to conduct a spacewalk or Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) outside the ISS along with Bowen.

Lasting for about six and a half hours, the mission will include retrieval of a Radio Frequency Group (RFG) unit and preparations for the solar array installation on the ISS.

With this, the UAE will become the 10th country to conduct a spacewalk outside the ISS.

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Heart experiment

On Monday, Al Neyadi split his day with a pair of life science experiments, first studying botany then the human heart. He started his day inside the Kibo laboratory module cleaning the Advanced Plant Habitat and stowing seed samples in a science freezer for a study that explored space-caused genetic changes in plants.

The Advanced Plant Habitat (Plant Habitat) is a fully automated facility that is used to conduct plant bioscience research on the International Space Station (ISS). It occupies the lower half of the EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS) Rack and one powered International Subrack Interface Standard (ISIS) drawer, providing a large, enclosed, environmentally controlled chamber.

In the afternoon on Monday, Al Neyadi took part in a heart experiment which he had described as one of the experiments that was most excited about prior to his launch into the ISS.

NASA said Al Neyadi was in the US Destiny laboratory module looking at heart tissue samples in a microscope to observe microgravity-induced changes in heart cells and learn how to prevent cardiac disorders on Earth and in space.

The US Laboratory Module, called Destiny, is the primary research laboratory for the US payloads, supporting a wide range of experiments and studies contributing to health, safety, and quality of life for people all over the world. Science conducted on the ISS offers researchers an unparalleled opportunity to test physical processes in the absence of gravity. “The results of these experiments will allow scientists to better understand our world and ourselves and prepare us for future missions,” according to NASA.

Meanwhile, NASA has also released the official Expedition 69 crew portrait.

(from left) Flight engineers Frank Rubio from NASA, Dmitri Petelin from Roscosmos, Sultan Alneyadi from UAE, Woody Hoburg and Stephen Bowen from NASA, Andrey Fedyaev and Commander Sergey Prokopyev from Roscosmos Image Credit: NASA

The Expedition 69 mission officially got underway after the undocking of the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft on March 28. Apart from Al Neyadi, Bowen and their Crew-6 crew mates Woody Hoburg and Andrey Fedyaev, the mission includes Frank Rubio from NASA and Dmitri Petelin and Commander Sergey Prokopyev from Roscosmos.