Dubai: When an astronaut celebrates his birthday in space, it literally has to be a gravity-defying one! That is exactly what UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi experienced on his first birthday on the International Space Station (ISS) where he is on the longest Arab space mission.
The Emirati astronaut turned 42 on Tuesday, May 23. Taking to social media on Thursday, he shared photos of how he celebrated the special day in space with his colleagues, including the newly joined Saudi astronauts, whom he referred to as “family.”
He also listed out the special dishes his Exploration 69 crewmates gifted him on his birthday. And the icing on the cake was of course the birthday wish in Arabic from Saudi astronauts Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali Al Qarni. The duo had floated into the space station just the previous day, to form the largest group of Najmonauts (Arab astronauts) onboard the space station ever.
“Celebrated my 1st birthday in space with colleagues who have become family! Highlight of the day? A Maple Muffin top cake from the USA crew, a Cinnamon Bun with yoghurt and dry fruits from Russian crew, topped off with wishes in Arabic. Truly a gravity-defying celebration!” Al Neyadi said in his post.
Back on Earth, Al Neyadi had received another birthday gift from UAE students in his hometown Al Ain.
Salem Humaid Al Marri, director general of Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai, the space agency behind the UAE Astronaut Programme, on Wednesday night shared a video showing how a large group of students of Al Ain Academy sang the Happy Birthday song for Al Neyadi.
“A moving celebration of @Astro_Alneyadi ‘s birthday by Al Ain Academy students after he interacted with them from the ISS yesterday. Happy birthday Sultan! Hoping you had a memorable birthday in space,” Al Marri said in his post.
Al Neyadi had interacted with more than 2,200 students, community members and officials in the presence of Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior during the Al Ain edition of ‘A Call from Space’ event organised by MBRSC at the UAE University on Tuesday.
While sharing details of the experiments he has conducted and his experiences in space on his birthday, Al Neyadi had also mentioned that he was missing his mother’s cooking.
On Thursday, Al Neyadi also saluted Jordan on its independence day. He shared a night view of the capital city of Amman from the orbital laboratory over 400km above the Earth.
“Saluting #Jordan on their Independence Day. A beacon of Arab culture and boundless generosity set against the enigmatic backdrop of the Dead Sea, Jordan seamlessly blends heritage and natural charm. Here is a snap of #Amman, a city that holds a special place in our hearts,” Al Neyadi said in the post accompanying the striking photos.