Dubai: What are the very first things that the UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi would want to do when he returns back to Earth from the International Space Station in a month?
Well, the Sultan of Space himself revealed the answer to Gulf News in a video call from the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday.
Like any astronaut on a long-duration space mission, Al Neyadi is also eager to experience gravity and walk on the planet when he returns. Having a freshly cooked meal has topped the list of things that he has prioritised to do when he lands on the planet, Al Neyadi said in a reply to a question by Gulf News during an exclusive live event organised for select media.
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), the agency behind the UAE Astronaut Programme, organised the video call with Al Neyadi at its Mission Control Station in Al Khawaneej.
“Honestly, I don’t know what the situation will be,” he said, pointing out that it would take some time to adapt to Earth’s gravity and and the life overall on the ground.
“It depends on the situation. Definitely, people [astronauts returning to Earth] like to eat freshly cooked food or maybe (have) a cup of coffee. (Some) other people like to sleep on a bed, but honestly, I don't know yet. We have to go back and experience gravity again and hopefully we will feel good and then we will think about the first thing that we might do. But definitely, I would love to have a fresh meal once I'm back.”
Al Neyadi is expected to complete the longest Arab space mission on-board the ISS by the end of August or early September.
Having completed five months into the mission, the 42-year-old father-of-six has also been missing his family and food cooked by his mother indeed. He said he was looking forward to chatting with them in person and sharing his experiences on the ISS.
Will miss microgravity
However, when he ultimately returns to Earth, he revealed that he will be missing the microgravity and the ability to float on the orbital laboratory that travels at 28,000km per hour around 400km above Earth.
While he would be happy to get more time to spend on the ISS, Al Neyadi clarified that it was not a choice that he could make.
The flight engineer-turned-astronaut has conducted numerous science experiments and performed the first ever spacewalk, also known as an Extravehicular Activity (EVA), by an Arab in the vacuum outside the ISS during his historic mission.
Asked about his biggest contribution through the mission, Al Neyadi told Gulf News: “Being here for six months for the first time as an Arab astronaut and conducting the EVA —I think that is the most important thing I did.”
“Additionally, as I said, the science that we contributed [on behalf] of the UAE is going to be a great addition to this mission overall,” he added.
“The science that I conducted in the name of the UAE is going to be a great addition to this mission,” he added.
He said he was looking forward to the UAE’s future missions for which new astronauts are preparing. “We need to do something different.”
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Space is not Star Trek or Star Wars
Meanwhile, Salem Humaid Al Marri, director general of MBRSC, told Gulf News that Al Neyadi’s mission named Zayed Ambition 2 gave an opportunity to reach the whole world.
“Through this mission, we have been able to reach the whole world, showing what Sultan is doing through social media. He is very interactive on social media. He is doing videos that are very high-tech videos and that are also very low-tech to show people what life is like on ISS, simple, day-to-day tasks. People learnt a lot from those types of videos and they understand that living in space is not like Star Trek or Star Wars. So, I think that is one of the biggest contributions that we’ve done.”
He pointed out it that it makes a difference when an astronaut from the region goes to space and speaks in your language.
Doing a monumental spacewalk, first time by a non-ISS partner country and popularising space topics among common people will be remembered as the biggest contributions of Al Neyadi’s mission, Al Marri opined.
When will he be in UAE?
He explained that Al Neyadi, along with the Nasa SpaceX Crew-6 mission crew members, would be splashing down to Florida once they complete the handover procedures to the Crew-7 members who are expected to blast off to the ISS by the end of this month.
“That could be by the end of August or early September. He will then go to Houston. By mid to end of September, we will have him here and then he will go back to do the post-mission activities in the US which will take two to three months. Then, he will come back to the UAE to spend a good time,” Al Marri added.
On Friday, Al Neyadi shared a video showing a night tour of the Gulf countries from the ISS. In the nearly eight minutes-long video, Al Neyadi showed how the GCC countries look brightly lit at night when viewed from the low Earth orbit. He zoomed in to show closer views of the countries, especially the UAE, and also spent extra time zooming in on his home town Al Ain. Al Neyadi was born in Um Ghafa in Al Ain.