Archive image of Dr Al Neyadi juggling food canisters and packages in the microgravity environment - which he is missing back on Earth - onboard the International Space Station in April 2023 Image Credit: NASA

Dubai: UAE astronaut-turned-minister Dr Sultan Al Neyadi on Sunday recalled his experience with microgravity as he marked the first anniversary of his record-setting space mission.

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Dr Al Neyadi, who is Minister of State for Youth Affairs, conducted the longest Arab space mission and became the first Arab to do a spacewalk outside the International Space Station (ISS).

He took to social media to commemorate the launch of his historic mission.

“A year ago, I experienced my first moments aboard the ISS. I still recall each moment in microgravity with the crew,” he posted.

Dr Al Neyadi was part of Nasa’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission that launched on March 2, 2023, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida and docked to the space station the next day.

As he celebrated the beginning of his six-month-long space odyssey, Dr Al Neyadi highlighted the country’s ongoing journey of exploration and discovery in space with two new astronauts all set to graduate in a couple of days.

“This anniversary also coincides with a significant milestone: the graduation of @Astronaut_Nora and @Astro_AlMulla from NASA’s Astronaut Candidate Class, just two days away,” he said.

He was referring to the second batch of Emirati astronauts Nora Al Matrooshi and Mohammad Al Mulla who are scheduled to graduate from the Johnson Space Centre in Houston on March 5.

“The journey continues,” Dr Al Neyadi added. He also shared images showing the rocket and the spacecraft in which he blasted off to space, the big family of Expedition 68 crew and a group photo of him along with his UAE astronaut colleagues Hazzaa Al Mansoori, Al Matrooshi and Al Mulla.

Inspirational post

On Friday night, Dr Al Neyadi shared another post recalling how the first launch attempt of the Crew-6 mission had to be scrubbed due to a technical glitch.

“Last year, just 2 minutes before our scheduled launch to the ISS, our mission was scrubbed due to technical reasons. This experience taught me that life doesn’t always go the way we want. There are challenging days when some might view obstacles as the end of their journey or as inevitable failures. However, others might see these setbacks as a brief pause that precede towards succeeding their goals.”

He then posed a question to his followers, asking: “Which side are you on?” He also attached a photo that was taken at Cape Canaveral, Florida, before the second launch attempt, with a space rocket’s launchpad appearing on the horizon.

Sultan of Space to minister

The entire country had eagerly celebrated the historic space mission of its second astronaut, Dr Neyadi, who was affectionately dubbed the ‘Sultan of Space’. Landmarks across the nation were adorned with messages promoting the UAE Mission 2.

Six months later, the country celebrated his homecoming after the successful mission, which also saw him conduct over 200 scientific experiments on the ISS.

UAE leaders hailed the return of Dr Al Neyadi as a moment of national pride while welcoming him at the all new terminal in Abu Dhabi International Airport that was decked up exclusively for the occasion. Several accolades were bestowed upon him and he was appointed as the Minister of State for Youth in January this year.

Two UAE astronauts to graduate from Nasa training programme on March 5

The Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) on Friday announced that Emirati astronauts Nora Al Matrooshi and Mohammad Al Mulla, from the second batch of the UAE Astronaut Programme, will graduate from the 2021 Nasa Astronaut Candidate Class training programme on March 5 at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston.

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Al Matrooshi and Al Mulla’s training that began in January 2022 encompassed spacewalking, robotics, space station systems, T-38 jet proficiency and learning Russian.

The 2021 class features 10 Nasa candidates alongside Al Mulla and Al Matrooshi, who is also the first female Arab astronaut. At the graduation ceremony, each candidate will be awarded an astronaut pin, signifying their graduation and qualifying them for future space missions.

(L to R) Nora Al Matrooshi, Mohammad Al Mulla, Dr Sultan Al Neyadi and Hazzaa Al Mansoori Image Credit: Supplied

The Emirati astronauts for the second batch of the UAE Astronaut Programme were announced in 2021 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. MBRSC had received 4,305 applications.