sultan al neyadi on iss
Sultan Al Neyadi's splashdown to Earth is scheduled for September 3. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: As the longest Arab space mission nears completion, the nation waits with bated breath for Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi’s return from space.

Having done over 200 scientific experiments, the first-ever Arab spacewalk and after spending over 1,000 hours of space operations, Al Neyadi is returning from the International Space Station (ISS) after six months.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai, the agency behind the UAE Astronaut Programme, will be broadcasting Al Neyadi’s historic journey back to Earth in two live-streaming sessions on its website on September 2 and 3.

Announcing the details of the live broadcast, MBRSC said on Thursday: “Be a part of this historic achievement using the hashtag #SafeReturnSultan.”

Live coverage details

The live coverage will be as per the following schedule.

September 2: Undocking from the International Space Station

Live coverage: 3pm onwards

Undocking scheduled for 5.05pm

September 3: Return to Earth

Live coverage: 8.30am onwards

Scheduled splashdown time: No earlier than 8.58am.

According to the US Space Agency NASA, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft hatch closing with Crew-6 aboard is expected to take place around 3.20pm GST on Saturday. The coverage next day will include that of SpaceX Dragon spacecraft deorbit burn, entry, and splashdown.

NASA astronaut Stephen Bowen will command Endeavour, leading NASA Pilot Woody Hoburg and Mission Specialists Al Neyadi and Andrey Fedyaev of Roscosmos to a splashdown off the coast of Florida, NASA said.

Threat of Idalia

Florida has been hit by Hurricane Idalia which made landfall on Wednesday morning as a powerful Category 3 hurricane over Keaton Beach located along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Idalia weakened to a tropical storm Wednesday evening as it dumped heavy rain, unleashed strong winds and knocked out power in parts of southern Georgia and the Carolinas, just hours after pummeling Florida’s west coast and inundating communities there with floodwater, international media reported.

According to NASA, joint teams are monitoring weather forecasts across seven potential splashdown sites off the coast of Florida and any impacts Hurricane Idalia may have on the recovery operations of the arriving astronauts.

The agency said it will share more information on Crew-6 return as it becomes available.

Space family

Currently, Al Neyadi is among 11 crew members from five countries living and working together on the orbital outpost after the Crew-7 joined the Crew-6 on August 27.

In the latest picture released by NASA, Al Neyadi posed with US astronaut Frank Rubio for a portrait during a pizza night aboard the ISS. On Thursday, he also shared a video of how he found a new family out of this world.

“We began the mission as crewmates, but now we’re brothers. Over the last 6 months, I gained a new family - with whom I shared expertise, traditions, and cultures, and experienced beautiful and challenging moments while creating unforgettable memories together,” Al Neyadi posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

In another video, he could be seen checking out his SpaceX space suit which he had worn during his launch to the ISS.

“I tested the SpaceX suit to make sure it didn’t need any adjustments after spending so much time in space. We will wear this suit again in a few days, God willing, when we return via the Dragon spacecraft,” he stated in the post in Arabic.

NASA said the Earth-bound foursome has been handing over its responsibilities to the newly arrived crew while preparing for the return to Earth’s gravity environment. The crew handover activities involve concluding science experiments and transferring return cargo to their Dragon spacecraft.

The four crew mates this week have been packing Endeavour, reviewing deorbit and splashdown procedures, and talking to NASA and SpaceX ground support personnel.

Al Neyadi had blasted off to the ISS on March 2 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. Travelling on NASA SpaceX Dragon Endeavour, Al Neyadi and other three crew members of the SpaceX Crew-6 reached the ISS the next day.

Massive contributions

After becoming a flight engineer of the Expedition 69 on the ISS, the former network security engineer with the UAE Armed Forces conducted the first Arab spacewalk, and participated in over 200 experiments along with maintenance and other activities on the ISS.

The 42-year-old’s contributions span diverse fields, including plant genetics, human life sciences, exploration technology, fluid dynamics, material science, and advanced exploration technologies, among others.

Al Neyadi further engaged in 19 educational and community outreach events called “A Call from Space” series, in which over 10,500 people from all walks of life took part and interacted with the Emirati astronaut through live video calls and ham radio sessions. His efforts have showcased the nation’s innovation and his videos explained the wonders of space in simple ways.

Once he safely returns to Earth, Al Neyadi will spend a couple of weeks in the US, readjusting his body to gravity and life on Earth. He is expected to receive a hero’s welcome to the UAE later in September.

The UAE Astronaut Programme is one of the projects managed by MBRSC under the UAE’s National Space Programme and funded by the ICT Fund of the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA), which aims to support research and development in the ICT sector in the UAE and promote the country’s integration on the global stage.